How to Save US Dairy
Immediate Aid and Long-term Solutions
The US dairy industry has struggled with falling demand and low and volatile prices for decades, and in 2019, the US lost 3,281, or around 9%, of its dairy farms. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the sector’s economic hardships; the pandemic could result in losses of $8.2 billion for dairy farmers. At the same time, dairy farmers are grappling with the sector’s large environmental footprint, growing awareness of which has further reduced consumer demand. To make US dairy farms economically and environmentally sustainable over the long term, the federal government should do the following:
- Align dairy supply with domestic and international demand by 1) increasing funding for USDA FAS export programs and 2) creating a supply management program.
- Facilitate dairy farm diversification and transitions by 1) reducing financial burdens to encourage new investments; 2) facilitating equipment and cattle sales; and 3) providing technical assistance and improving productivity of new ventures.
- Increase adoption of financially and environmentally beneficial manure management by 1) promoting deployment and third-party ownership of anaerobic digesters and 2) increasing adoption of alternative manure management practices
Combined, these policy interventions will offer a financial life raft to current dairy farmers, saving and creating tens of thousands of jobs, while also reducing dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by tens of millions of metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent.