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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.

Heat Waves Could Bring Hundreds Of Billions In Agricultural Losses

Heat waves induced by climate change will threaten future agricultural crops at a faster rate than gradual global warming, according to a new study published in the Journal of the European Economic Association. Steve Miller, a UC Boulder assistant professor of environmental studies, was a lead researcher in the study.

He says the impact of heat waves on food crops could be 5 to 10 times greater than previously thought.

“Which is pretty concerning,” Miller said. “Turning that into a dollar amount gets to be harder because we would have to have a realistic projection of overall agricultural production 80 years from now.”

Miller points to France where, in 2003, the agricultural sector saw a $3-4 billion economic loss after enduring a heat wave. According to Miller, getting information out to farmers about the changing climate is one way to help mitigate losses.

“Water can help plants cope with heat stress and if we can get better and more realistic forecasts to those farmers and help them understand the benefits and how best to apply water that can help reduce some of the damage as well,” Miller said.

Miller says he's concerned but also optimistic.

“I think there's lots of room for us in terms of adaptation and mitigation to make those scary numbers get smaller,” Miller explained.

Editor’s note: An earlier audio version of this story incorrectly stated the economic impact of a 2003 heat wave on the French agricultural sector. That event resulted in a $3-4 billion loss.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

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