Overview

Milk is produced in all 50 States, with the major producing States in the West and North. Dairy farms, overwhelmingly family-owned and managed, are generally members of producer cooperatives. The industry has seen a consistent decline in number of operations, matched by a rise in number of cows per operation. Dairy products include fluid beverage milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, dry  milk products, condensed milk, and whey products.   For more U.S. dairy-related information see Background, Market Outlook, Trade, Policy, and Readings.

ERS Outputs on Dairy products

ERS provides data and reports on dairy markets, including domestic and international supply, demand, trade, and prices. 

 Periodic, scheduled ERS outputs on dairy include:

  • Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, a monthly report that provides timely livestock, dairy, and poultry information focusing on current and forecast production, prices, and trade for each of the sectors.
  • The Dairy Data Set includes data files covering domestic supply and demand and trade of various dairy products. Data on the U.S. dairy situation and commercial disappearance are updated monthly, and U.S. milk production and related data are updated quarterly. All other data files are updated annually. These include data on dairy per capita consumption; fluid milk sales; milk supply by State and region; milk production and factors affecting supply and utilization of milk in all dairy products; and numbers and size of milk bottling plants.

In addition to the periodic outlook reports and data products, ERS publishes reports covering timely issues important to dairy markets in United States and around the world.

Recent ERS reports relating to dairy include:

India's Dairy Sector: Structure, Performance, and Prospects

India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. Growth in milk supply and demand has been robust, but projections indicate that production targets will be difficult to reach without stronger gains in productivity. India is now a small net exporter of dairy products, but trade policies have facilitated imports when shortages lead to high domestic price (LDPM-272-01, March 2017).

Growth of U.S. Dairy Exports

From 2004 to 2014, the value of U.S. dairy product exports more than quadrupled, and the United States became the world’s third-largest dairy product exporter, behind New Zealand and the European Union. In 2015, as global conditions changed, the value of U.S. dairy exports fell by almost 30 percent. The U.S. dairy industry will be challenged to increase market share in the years to come (LDPM-270-01, November 2016).

The Effects of the Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers

The Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers offers protection when the difference between the U.S. all-milk price and the estimated average feed cost falls below an elected level. The program's potential impacts on average margins and risk at different levels of coverage for both the protected margin ($4-$8 per cwt) and the share of production covered (25-90%) are estimated for 13 regions (ERR214, September 2016)

Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry

Congress reorganized dairy policy in the Agricultural Act of 2014 when it eliminated three programs and created the Dairy Margin Protection Program. The new program aims to provide farmers with financial protection against risks from increasing vola­tility in milk and feed prices. These developments occurred amid ongoing structural change toward larger dairy farms, as well as ongoing change in dairy product demand, away from fluid milk, and toward manufactured products sold in domestic and export markets. This report focuses on the interrelated topics of structural change in dairy production, changes in dairy product markets, growing price volatility, and dairy policy. It details the major developments in each, traces the linkages among them, and identifies the challenges that structural change, evolving product markets, and price volatility pose for policy (ERR-205, March 2016). 

For more ERS publications on Dairy see Readings.