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Environment
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.

After Dairy Contaminated Wells, Southern Idaho County Never Paid For Water Tests

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Frankie Barnhill
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Boise State Public Radio
This man-made pond is a typical method for storing dairy waste.

After months of cold and wet weather, the 4 Bros. Dairy near Shoshone started to flood last February. Melting snow and winter rain overwhelmed the wastewater ponds, prompting the Lincoln County Commissioners to call an emergency meeting.

Turns out the dairy was pumping the excess water into a canal, where water leaked into residential wells.

According to the Twin Falls Times-News, commissioners urged people in the area to get their wells tested and said they would be reimbursed. The tests are free, but the lab fee is $16. But one resident told the paper that when he took his receipt to get reimbursement, the county turned him away. A county commissioner says they expected to get state or federal money to pay for the test, but it didn’t come through.

The Times News reports between 20-40 wells were tested, some of which tested positive for E. coli.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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