California dairy industry pumps 65 billion through economy

Sales of California dairy products in 2014 totaled about $65 billion. From this figure, $21 billion was pumped through the state's economy in value-added products.

UC report: Dairy still the cream of California crops

Pretty soon these reports coming out of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center are going to add up to real numbers people won’t be able to ignore – not if they’re going to be honest with themselves.

The latest report from the UC Agricultural Issues Center points to the value-added nature of the California dairy industry. Last year we saw a similar report from Daniel Sumner’s group at the University of California that showed us just how much the almond industry contributes to California’s economy.

The dairy report was commissioned by the California Milk Advisory Board, formed in 1969 to promote California dairy products in an ever-growing and competitive marketplace. Funding for the board comes from a special assessment of dairies based on milk production.

According to the report, California milk production and processing last year contributed about $65 billion in total sales to the state. Of this amount, $9.4 billion was from milk sales from farm to processors; $25 billion came from the sale of processed dairy products; and the balance was sales from associated industries.

The report also states that after carefully backing out any potential double-counting, the dairy industry accounted for $21 billion in value-added economic value to the state.

This money trail can be linked back and through the 189,000 California jobs associated with the dairy industry, of which about 30,000 are on-farm and another 20,000 are in dairy processing. The remaining jobs are largely service and support jobs.

California is by far the leading state when it comes to dairy production. Tulare County alone accounts for 27 percent of the state’s milk production, and more total milk production than most states.

America’s top three dairy states, in order are California, Wisconsin and New York. Tulare County dairies produce roughly the same amount of milk per year (over 11 billion pounds) as do the dairies in the State of New York.

Paired with record-high milk prices in 2013 drove Tulare County's overall agricultural value to more than $7.8 billion, making it the leading Ag-producing county in the nation by dollar value.

To generate all this milk, cows eat an incredible amount of forages and other commodities, which farmers grow to supply a vibrant dairy industry. These commodities include, but are not limited to: alfalfa, wheat, triticale, corn, barley, whole cotton seed (a cotton byproduct), almond hulls (a byproduct of almond production), canola, soybean meal and processing byproducts including citrus pulp.

Cows also require generous amounts of fresh water each day.

By my math, all this means that California’s two largest Ag industries by production value – dairy and almonds – generate about $32 billion ($11 billion for almonds plus $21 billion for dairy) in value to state coffers.

Both are extremely reliant upon water and other agricultural producers for their success. In fact, if some one connected the dots, there’s very little in terms of agricultural products produced in California that isn’t somehow reliant upon another agricultural sector.

At the end of the day, agricultural production and the water it uses are beneficial to building sustainable communities in the Golden State, not to mention providing healthy and abundant food sources for global customers.

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