Thursday, November 07, 2019

'Painful evolution': Farmers trade in dairy cows for almond trees

California’s oldest dairy farm is banking on a new source of milk, having traded its cows for almond trees. The Giacomazzi Dairy’s radical shift is reflective of America’s shrinking dairy market, where historically low milk prices, the trade war with China and efficient technologies have made it nearly impossible for small farmers to make a profit. “The dairy industry was always a roller coaster ride, but now it is broken,” Dino Giacomazzi told The Washington Times about the decision to change production at his family’s 126-year-old farm in Hanford, which until last month had as many as 2,000 milk-producing cows. Milk has been a staple in the American diet and U.S. economy for decades, and the farmers who produce it make up one of the nation’s oldest regulated industries. Last year, they sold about $35 billion worth of milk. The overall industry, according to the National Farmers Union, accounts for about 1% of gross domestic product, generating an economic impact of $628 billion and playing a central role in the nation’s rural, agricultural economy that “cannot be overstated.” But over the past 30 years, dairy farms have largely consolidated into the larger operations now dominating the industry. From 1992 to 2018, more than 94,000 family dairies closed their barns at a rate of 10 per day, the National Farmers Union says. According to Department of Agriculture figures, the U.S. has lost nearly 20,000 of its licensed dairy farms — more than 30% — over the past decade. From 2017 to 2018 the number dropped from 40,199 to 37,468, almost 7%...MORE

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