Last month in this column, I discussed how I believe concerns about milk consumption declines are overblown. Although consumption has dropped since 1945 — a much different time — other segments of dairy have picked up the slack.

More evidence of a strong dairy industry can be found in the International Dairy Foods Association’s (IDFA) Economic Impact Study, which measures the combined impact of the dairy industry, including the milk, cheese, ice cream, cultured dairy products, and ingredients sectors. It reported the U.S. dairy industry’s economic impact at a staggering $793.75 billion.

The report, released in June at the beginning of National Dairy Month, is conducted every two years to quantify the industry’s impact on local, state, and national economies. This year’s report reveals the U.S. dairy industry added nearly 60,000 new jobs, increased average wages by 11%, and hiked its total impact on the U.S. economy by $41 billion during the past two years, according to the IDFA.

The newly released figures indicate that the U.S. dairy industry now supports:

  • 3.2 million total jobs, including 1.078 million jobs in dairy product manufacturing, up from 1.018 million jobs in 2021.
  • $49 billion in direct wages for workers in the dairy industry, up from $42 billion in direct wages in 2021.
  • $72 billion in federal, state, and local taxes (not including sales taxes paid by consumers), up from $67.1 million in 2021.
  • Three percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product

“The U.S. dairy industry is growing to keep pace with intense global demand, and that means more jobs, higher wages, more tax benefits, and more economic growth for communities across the United States,” states Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO. “Consumers here in the U.S. and around the world recognize U.S. dairy products for their nourishing and delicious qualities, and they are purchasing U.S. dairy products in record quantities.”

The report also demonstrates how dairy product categories contribute directly to the U.S. economy, including:

  • Cheese: Adds $64.5 billion in direct economic impact and supports 59,538 dairy industry jobs.
  • Milk: Adds $50.9 billion in direct economic impact and supports 67,995 dairy industry jobs.
  • Dairy Ingredients: Adds $20.4 billion in direct economic impact and supports 16,552 dairy industry jobs.
  • Ice Cream: Adds $11.4 billion in direct economic impact and supports 27,066 dairy industry jobs.
  • Yogurt and Cultured Products: Adds $8.3 billion in direct economic impact and supports 10,867 dairy industry jobs.

Although other topics like artificial intelligence are absorbing all of the news headlines today, it is hard to imagine the U.S. economy — as well as the global economy — without the dairy industry.

Before I sign off this month, I wanted to discuss sustainability, the topic of this issue. I recently attended a baseball game, and on the digital rotating scoreboard, a transportation company touted it would have net-zero emissions by 2050. 

When seeing things like this advertisement, I thought about how proud dairy processors should be of their sustainability efforts. Many larger processors have a director of sustainability, while smaller ones often have someone who is overseeing it. In addition, a quick glance at will tell you all you need to know about sustainability: it’s a hot topic. 

This is coupled with a May study that revealed the California dairy sector is on target to reach its methane reduction goals and plans to reach climate neutrality by 2030.  

The peer-reviewed study, published in CABI Biological Sciences, examined the California dairy sector’s progress toward the target set by Senate Bill 1383 — a 40% reduction of methane emissions below 2013 levels by 2030. The study also concludes the California dairy sector could reach climate neutrality — contributing no additional warming to the atmosphere — as soon as 2027. 

California is not alone. As you will see in our sustainability issue, there are immense efforts by everyone involved in the dairy industry to reach sustainability goals. Although 2050 may seem like a surreal date, 2030 is only seven years away. 

What an incredible accomplishment.