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Idaho dairy farmers produce more milk and cheese than almost any state in the nation. Idaho is ranked third behind California and Wisconsin.The biggest slice of Idaho's natural resource pie comes from agriculture. Along with mining and logging, it helped build the economy here. In 2010, agriculture and livestock cash receipts totaled about $5.8 billion according to Jay O'Laughlin at the University of Idaho's College of Natural Resources. O'Laughlin reports more than $2 billion in cash receipts went to milk producers.Fast Facts: Since 1997, the annual revenue from the sale of dairy products has exceeded the annual revenue from the sale of potatoes. In 2004, the revenue from sale of dairy products surpassed the revenue from the sale of meat animals and is now the largest single source of revenue of any agricultural product in the state. In 2008, Idaho dairy farms produced 12.315 million pounds of milk an estimated value at over $2.1 billion. In 2008, 13,180 people were directly employed on Idaho dairy farms or in Idaho dairy product manufacturing plants. The majority of these jobs 9,571 were within seven south central Idaho counties: Twin Falls, Jerome, Gooding, Lincoln, Cassia, Minidoka, and Elmore. Of those 13,180 jobs, 82 percent, or 10,809 were on Idaho’s dairy farms while the remaining 18 percent, 2,371 jobs, were in Idaho’s dairy product manufacturing plants. The economic activity generated by dairy farming and dairy product manufacturing in Idaho also generates a significant stream of annual tax revenues to the State of Idaho. An estimated $106.9 million in annual tax revenues that are received by the State of Idaho can be attributed to the direct and secondary economic impacts associated with the dairy industry.Source: BSU College of Business & EconomicsThe Idaho Dairymen's Association reports there were 569 dairies in the state as of September 30, 2011.That’s a significant drop from just a few years ago when in 2008, 800 dairies were licensed to sell milk.While the number of dairies is on the decline in Idaho, the number of milk cows and the production of things like milk, cheese and cottage cheese are rising. According to a study from Boise State University’s College of Business & Economics which looked at the economic impacts of the dairy industry in Idaho, the number of dairy cows here is up more than 35 percent.

Japan Trade Deal To Help Mountain West Farmers

Bill Green

A new trade deal with Japan could soon help out dairymen, cattlemen, corn and wheat farmers, among many others.

President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that the U.S. had a trade deal “in principle” with Japan, though the details aren’t out yet and nothing is expected to be signed for at least several weeks. If ratified, that deal could keep U.S. ag competitive in Japan after the U.S. pulled out of a Trans Pacific Partnership, giving an advantage to competitors (like Australia and New Zealand) that stayed in the agreement.

Joshua Tonsager, vice president of policy and communications for the National Association of Wheat Growers, said Japan is a top customer for U.S. wheat, especially if it’s coming out of the Mountain West.

“Nationwide, about 50% of the wheat is exported in general. That’s not specific to Japan, but exported in general,” Tonsager said. “For [the Mountain West], it’s a much higher percentage. It’s 80% to 90% of the wheat gets exported out of the country.”

Tonsager says the trade war with China has cost wheat growers hundreds of millions of dollars, but a deal with Japan should help give wheat growers some security in that market.

Another commodity that depends heavily on a Japanese export is beef. In fact, Japan is U.S. beef’s largest export market. Kent Bacus, senior director of international trade for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said a deal is needed with Japan so that American beef can maintain an upward trend of exporting to Japan.

“We have seen just a tremendous upswing in the last three or four years,” he said. “They really like that American brand. So we are the preferential choice of a lot of Japansese consumers, but if we don’t address that tariff rate, sooner or later we could get priced out of that market.”

As for the China trade war, Bacus was also very optimistic. While many China-dependent Midwest soybean farmers fear losing long-term markets during trade drawn-out negotiations, cattle farmers are eyeing better access than they’ve ever had before. 

“For just U.S. beef exports, China could be a $4 billion market in the next five years," Bacus said. "$4 billion. Last year, we exported $4 billion total ... that is a tremendous, tremendous increase.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Find reporter Madelyn Beck on Twitter @MadelynBeck8

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