In the economic engine that is the U.S., 3% of America’s gross domestic product (GDP) is supported by the dairy industry, reports the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). That figure comes from the industry’s $793.75 billion economic impact.
Every two years, IDFA conducts its Economic Impact Study to measure the combined influence of dairy production and processing. This year’s report shows that the industry has grown significantly since 2021, highlighted by nearly 60,000 new jobs and 11% higher wages. That contributed to a $41 million climb in total economic impact.
The industry supports 3.2 million jobs in all, with 1.078 million of those in dairy manufacturing and 2.122 million on farms and in other capacities.
When broken down by dairy product, the report identifies that milk supports the most jobs by contributing to 67,995 positions. But it is cheese that supports direct economic impact the most. That value-added product contributes $64.5 billion to the economy, while milk adds $50.9 billion, dairy ingredients $20.4 billion, ice cream $11.4 billion, and yogurt and other cultured products $8.3 billion.
Dairy’s economic impact is also identified by individual state and congressional district at https://www.idfa.org/dairydelivers. Those reports may be downloaded to share with community members and elected officials.
The numbers clearly illustrate why support for dairy farms and dairy manufacturing strengthens not only the national economy but towns and rural areas across the country. In California, for example, nearly 109,000 jobs are directly tied to dairy, and the industry generates more than $28 billion for the state’s economy. On the opposite coast, fellow top-five dairy state New York relies on dairy for almost 62,300 jobs and a $17 billion economic impact.
With a rising world population that has an expanding appetite for dairy and other animal proteins, it is no surprise that the dairy industry has experienced this growth. Per capita dairy consumption climbed again in 2021 — by 12.4 pounds — to continue the upward trend of dairy demand that’s been seen since USDA began tracking that data in 1975. While the makeup of that consumption has shifted as cheese and yogurt are more often consumed by Americans than fluid milk, it provides a positive outlook for dairy’s place in homes and in diets.