Dairy worked in California milking parlor.
June 30, 2017

U.S. Milk Production Highly Concentrated in Just 59 Counties

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

U.S. milk production is highly concentrated, with just 59 counties producing 50% of California and Federal Milk Marketing Order production, according to analysis by USDA. The 59 counties that make up the majority of milk production represent just 3.6% of the 1,632 counties that produce  milk in California and the Federal Order system.

And just 13 counties account for 25% of that milk production, with seven of them located in California. In fact, these seven California counties account for nearly 18% of milk production.  The largest producer, Tulare County in California’s Central Valley, accounts for nearly 6% of all milk produced in California and the Federal Order system. Put another, 85% of the lowest producing U.S. counties produce as much milk as California’s largest counties.

California continues to produce roughly 20% of the nation’s milk supply, despite a drop off in production in the Golden State over the past few years. That decline has come as farmers in California have been squeezed by drought and low milk prices. Three California cooperatives have petitioned USDA to join the Federal Order system, with a vote expected later this year.

The Central Marketing Area, which compiles the data on market concentration, notes that none of the top 13 counties are located in the Upper Midwest, and 12 of the 13 are in the West. Lancaster County, Penn., is the only county east of the Missouri River to make the list.  Others on the list include Yakima, Wash., Weld, Colo., Pinal, Ariz., and Chaves, N.M.

USDA’s analysis shows that 826 counties increased milk production in December 2016 compared to the previous December. One thousand thirteen counties decreased production in that same period. Most of the decreased production came in the central and southeast regions of the country.