U.S. dairying will cross another pause-to-consider threshold in 2018: The total number of farms that are licensed to sell milk will fall below 40,000.
Like previous round number mileposts, it is a sobering reminder about the steep downsizing of the industry that has occurred since the 1935 Ag Census, when the number of “farms with milk cows” (any farm having at least one head) peaked at 6.812 million.
It is also another wakeup call about how few milk producers are left.
Licensed dairy farm numbers began being tabulated in 1992, providing an immensely more accurate picture about commercial milk production. According to USDA, total farm numbers in 2017 were 40,219, a drop of 1,600 from the previous year.