Bringing the Economy Home


Understanding Idaho's Dairy Industry


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Holstein-Friesian cows being miked in dairy

This page is no longer being updated. For ongoing coverage of this topic, go to Boise State Public Radio’s website.

Idaho dairy farmers produce more milk and cheese than almost any state in the nation.  Idaho is ranked third behind California and Wisconsin.

The biggest slice of Idaho’s natural resource pie comes from agriculture. Along with mining and logging, it helped build the economy here.  In 2010, agriculture and livestock cash receipts totaled about $5.8 billion according to Jay O’Laughlin at the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources. O’Laughlin reports more than $2 billion in cash receipts went to milk producers.

Fast Facts:

  • Since 1997, the annual revenue from the sale of dairy products has exceeded the annual revenue from the sale of potatoes.
  •  In 2004, the revenue from sale of dairy products surpassed the revenue from the sale of meat animals and is now the largest single source of revenue of any agricultural product in the state.
  • In 2008, Idaho dairy farms produced 12.315 million pounds of milk an estimated value at over $2.1 billion.
  • In 2008, 13,180 people were directly employed on Idaho dairy farms or in Idaho dairy product manufacturing plants. The majority of these jobs 9,571 were within seven south central Idaho counties: Twin Falls, Jerome, Gooding, Lincoln, Cassia, Minidoka, and Elmore.
  • Of those 13,180 jobs, 82 percent, or 10,809 were on Idaho’s dairy farms while the remaining 18 percent, 2,371 jobs, were in Idaho’s dairy product manufacturing plants.
  • The economic activity generated by dairy farming and dairy product manufacturing in Idaho also generates a significant stream of annual tax revenues to the State of Idaho. An estimated $106.9 million in annual tax revenues that are received by the State of Idaho can be attributed to the direct and secondary economic impacts associated with the dairy industry.

Source: BSU College of Business & Economics

The Idaho Dairymen’s Association reports there were 569 dairies in the state as of September 30, 2011.That’s a significant drop from just a few years ago when in 2008, 800 dairies were licensed to sell milk.

While the number of dairies is on the decline in Idaho, the number of milk cows and the production of things like milk, cheese and cottage cheese are rising. According to a study from Boise State University’s College of Business & Economics which looked at the economic impacts of the dairy industry in Idaho, the number of dairy cows here is up more than 35 percent.

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