California is the agricultural capital of the U.S., per Wall Street Journal, and dairy farming is its biggest sector — worth $20 billion annually to the state's economy.
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Dairy Farmers Plead For USDA Aid Amid Drought
Dairy Farmers Plead For USDA Aid Amid Drought

Unfortunately, California dairy farmers have been plagued by challenges over the last decade. For one thing, national milk consumption has been on a precipitous downswing since 1975 (down 42% overall), owing, initially to Americans consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages, and more recently, to Americans turning increasingly to plant-based “milks”, per USDA’s Economic Research Service. In addition, a rising tide of animal cruelty claims against dairy farmers appears to have eaten into U.S. demand for dairy, as The New York Times reported in December 2020.

However, the greatest challenge dairy farmers have been facing in the last couple of years may be the significant uptick in the cost of feeding dairy cows. Some of this has been brought about as a result of general supply chain madness that’s been trending since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But adding insult to injury is a severe lack of rain over the past two growing seasons (per WSJ). What has been termed a “historic drought” by organic dairy farm and industry activist, Straus Family Creamery, has diminished the supply of crops needed to feed dairy cows, raised the price of feed by as much as 50%, and otherwise increased dairy farm operating costs (via press release). Now, Straus has formed a coalition of dairy farmers to plead with the USDA for aid.

The quality rating of domestic dairy products has remained above 99 percent for six consecutive years, experts said at a webinar.

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