New Study Reaffirms The Big Role Dairy Plays In Idaho's Economy

Oct 24, 2014

Credit UGA College of Ag / Flickr

Idaho dairy producers are touting a new study that again shows the substantial role the dairy industry plays in the state’s economy. 

The University of Idaho's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences looked at 2012 data and determined dairy-related sales in Idaho totaled $6.6 billion. The industry consisted of 23,000 jobs and 3.4 percent of the state’s GDP.  The study’s author, Phil Watson, says dairy created $72 million in tax revenue for the state.

It's the latest in a line of studies dairy farmers have commissioned to show the industry's impact on the Idaho economy.

“We think those are good numbers for us to know,” says Bob Naerebout, the executive director of Idaho Dairymen’s Association. “We think [they’re] good numbers for the general public to know. We do look at those numbers and present those numbers to the legislators, so as they’re looking at overall the economic health of the state of Idaho, they recognize what can be attributed to agriculture.”

The Dairymen's group says it commissioned the study last year. Watson says it’s part of a larger project the U of I is working on for Idaho dairy producers. He estimates it cost $5,000 to complete the economic impact study. 

Boise State researchers have performed similar studies in the past.

Watson’s research says Idaho ranks third in the U.S. in dairy production. Wisconsin and California are the top producers. New York had passed Idaho in output in 2013.

The numbers come after a controversial year for dairy producers in the state. The industry was heavily criticized for its pushing of a bill last winter that proposed making it illegal to obtain footage at dairies without a farmers' permission.

The Legislature passed the bill amid heavy criticism. It’s now being challenged in the courts. Other controversies include the release of a memo sent from dairy industry leaders to producers, encouraging them not to allow reporters on their farms. A recent High Country News article blamed the dairy industry for turning the Snake River into a “sewer."

Naerebout says the release of the study is not meant to offset any public-relations hits the industry has taken in 2014. He says dairy producers had no input on the figures used in the study.

The Dairymen’s Association estimates it has spent nearly $2 million over the last five years on research looking at the industry’s environmental and economic impacts in Idaho.

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