The dairy industry is a major part of Pennsylvania’s economy, with more than half a million cows on 7,000 farms.
This week, people from across the country are showcasing their cows at the All-American Dairy Show at the Farm Show Complex.
“It’s a very important part of youth development in learning animal science, learning what makes a great dairy cow,” said Shannon Powers, Press Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
While many show off their cows at the show, it’s also highlighting the struggle in the industry, as the market and consumer demands change.
“It’s been tough to keep going and keep the finances where they need to be, but we’re fighting through it,” said dairy farmer Jacob Kline.
Kline’s family runs a dairy farm in Myerstown, Lebanon County. He’s part of the younger generation stepping up to find ways to make sure their family farms are more profitable.
“We milk about 170 cows, fluctuates a little bit in the difficult economy,” Kline said.
He’s finishing his college degree in agriculture business management, trying to figure out how to keep the business going.
“What we can do to become successful and keep going and try and see what else we can do to generate revenue so we can continue and have a good family operation,” Kline said.
The state is stepping in to help too. This past year, $5 million became available through the Dairy Investment Program.
“We awarded grants to people for things like new products that they’re developing on their farms or new ways to do business that can offset those changes in the marketplace,” Powers said.
Consumer demands are changing, so farmers are being encouraged to produce things other than liquid milk, such as yogurt and cheese.
“We need the dairy industry in Pennsylvania. It’s part of our heritage and it’s part of our future,” Powers said.
Many farmers will attend a Dairy Innovation Summit on Tuesday to find ways to move the industry forward.