Organic milk

A report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists earlier this month finds greater economic opportunities and jobs for rural communities where organic dairy farming methods are employed over conventional farming methods.

The report, entitled “Cream of the Crop: The Economic Benefits of Organic Dairy Farms” is the first report of its kind to calculate the economic advantages of organic dairy. According to the UCS, “Consumer demand for organic milk has jumped dramatically over the last decade, driven largely by ample evidence that it is more nutritious and less damaging to the environment than milk produced in crowded, polluting CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Organic dairy farming is now a $750 million industry, and annual U.S. organic milk sales increased 12 percent in 2010, 13 percent in 2011, and 5 percent in the first seven months of 2012. In some regions, consumer demand is so significant that retail grocery chains are having a hard time keeping organic milk in stock.

The data was based on financial information collected between 2008 and 2011 from Minnesota and Vermont—two of the nation’s premier milk-producing states—and found that organic dairies provide 33 percent more to the state’s economy and employed 83 percent more workers in Vermont than conventional dairy operations; and in Minnesota, organic dairy farms would increase the state’s economy by more than 10 percent as well as increase employment nearly 15 percent.

“Over the past 30 years, dairy farmers have had a choice: either get big or get out. Dairy farmers either had to expand dramatically and become large industrial operations or they went out of business,” said agricultural economist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS and author of the report, Jeffrey O’Hara, in a statement released by the organization. “However, organic dairy production offers farmers another option – one that is better for the environment, produces a healthier product, and leads to greater levels of economic activity.”

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