Is the I-29 Corridor Full
October 3, 2016

Is the I-29 Corridor Full?

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Plenty of feed, lots of good, clean water and great land availability made dairy farming along the I-29 corridor attractive to relocating dairies. Although the resources are there, it appears that the infrastructure isn’t in place to take the extra milk.

An article in the recent Lincoln Journal Star points out that although there was an increase in the number of dairies from 2014 to 2015 (181 to 184), Nebraska has lost 20 dairies as of this September. State ag director Greg Ibach says it’s not because of a lack of interest. The problem is there isn’t anyone interested in buying the milk.

“All of the sudden the plants that were begging for more milk, the cows caught up with the amount of processing capacity,” says Rod Johnson, executive director of the Nebraska Dairy Association. “The pipeline is full.”

It’s an issue along the entire I-29 corridor, he says.

Dairy Farmers of America is the main coop in Southeast Nebraska where most of the dairies in the state are located. They confirmed that there isn’t a need for more milk. “Due to a number of factors, including the export market, supply is currently outpacing demand in the Nebraska area,” says spokeswoman Kim O’Brien.

Understanding that dairy cows bring economic growth, a group of state commodity groups is working to bring new processors to Nebraska. The group is called Grow Nebraska Dairy.

It’s a classic chicken and egg story. The processors want to know there are enough cows to meet their needs, but the farmers want to know that there is processing capacity. “Our challenge is to bring everyone together at one time,” Johnson says.