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Dairy Industry To Convene In Phoenix As Milk Consumption Plummets

The dairy industry’s nationwide conference is coming to Arizona next week, at a time when Americans are dropping dairy. Since 2000, U.S. milk consumption has dropped 25%, and the decline is hurting major milk producers. 

This month, Borden Dairy Inc. and Dean Foods Co. filed for bankruptcy within a week of each other, both citing the drop in milk sales as customer tastes have changed. Borden's filing affects dairies in Arizona. Dean Foods has locations elsewhere in the mountain west.

"Demand globally is up," said Michael Dykes, president and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association. IDEA will be hosting the Dairy Forum 2020 in Phoenix on Jan. 26-29. It is expected to bring more than 1,000 dairy producers, marketers, buyers and economists to talk about the condition of the dairy industry.

"We are, as an industry, seeing an increase in dairy demand globally," he said, citing primarily cheese and yogurt products for that increase. Dairy products high in protein are primarily driving the increased demand, he said, acknowledging that milk demand is down.

He also said sustainability or efficiencies are a major focus of future dairy production.

“In the last 50 years, we’re producing twice as much milk as we did 50 years ago with half as many cows. That’s absolutely astonishing. If we look at that in terms of CO2, in the last 30 years, we’ve increased milk production 51%, and we’ve decreased CO2 emissions 9%," he said.

IDEA represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3 million jobs that generate $159 billion in wages and $620 billion in overall economic impact.

In Arizona, dairy contributes $2.1 billion in wages and 45,000 jobs to the state, according to the IDEA. The Arizona Farm Bureau ranks dairy as the state's largest agricultural commodity, tied with beef.

Heather van Blokland was a host at KJZZ from 2016 to 2021.