Data from the Department of Agriculture shows the number of licensed dairy operators in the United States continues to decline.
Analyzed by the American Farm Bureau Federation in a Market Intel article, USDA’s Milk Production report showed the fourth-largest year-over-year decline in the number of licensed dairy operations in the last 15 years. There were 2,550 fewer licensed dairy operations in 2020 than in 2019, when the number dropped by 3,261. The overall number of licensed operations in the U.S. has marched steadily downward since data collection began, declining by more than 55 percent, from 70,375 in 2003 to 31,657 in 2020.
AFBF suggests this recent acceleration of the decline reflects how difficult it is to operate a dairy in a low milk price environment. Since the end of 2014, dairy farmers have struggled with low prices followed by an industry-disrupting pandemic that increased milk price volatility and rendered risk management tools mostly ineffective.