"Get out while the getting is good" saw 1,631 U.S. dairies leave the industry in 2014.
According to data released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), that was the fewest farms to exit the industry since licensed dairy numbers began being tracked in 1992. Even so, it was still the 22nd yearly decline in a row.
It is a trend that shows no sign of ending nor, frankly, does it have any reason to.
While the numeric drop was the smallest ever, the 3.5 percentage dip was in line with figures seen since 2008. In fact, 3.5 percent was the average loss from 2008 to 2011, when milk producers struggled to recover from the industry's historic financial collapse in 2008-09.
A handful of figures stand out among the 2014 USDA data:
- Only one state increased dairy farm numbers – Pennsylvania, by a staggering 170. I will not be surprised if this number is revised downward when USDA publishes its 2015 data.
- Dairy numbers were unchanged in 11 states.
- The largest decline by any state (570 farms) was in the largest one, Wisconsin, which is not surprising.
- Other states losing at least 100 dairies were Minnesota (-260) and Ohio (-120).
- Minnesota's loss is especially noteworthy because it is the eighth largest milk state in the country, and no state with at least 1,000 farms came close to its 6.7 percent decline.
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The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 37 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.