The North Dakota Dairy Coalition is seeking state funding to research the possibility of a new milk processing plant in the region.
"In order for North Dakota to increase and expand its milk production, its milk processing capacity will also need to increase and diversify," the coalition said in its application to the state Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, which funds developers of farm products.
If approved for $82,000 in grant funding, the study would consider the combined power of South Dakota's success in growing its dairy industry and North Dakota's dairy herd growth potential in recruiting milk-processing capacity.
The proposed plant would be accessible to both North Dakota and South Dakota dairy producers.
Jennifer Holle, whose family has a dairy farm south of Mandan, said the North Dakota Dairy Coalition, of which she is a director, hasn't conducted a feasibility study in about 10 years.
"South Dakota (dairy industry) is growing at such a ridiculous rate that we're actually partnering with them," said Holle, adding that she hopes a strategically placed processing plant could benefit both states.
Holle also said that, while the number of dairies in North Dakota is decreasing, existing operations are growing. The Holles' Northern Lights Dairy milks about 600 cows and their numbers keep climbing. They are shipping directly to Dean Food's Land O' Lakes facility in Bismarck but are worried, if they keep increasing production, where they will be able to send excess milk.
Holle said knowing where potential new processing could locate may affect where any dairy operations moving into North Dakota choose to place their facilities.
The study would identify advantages and disadvantages of the region, where the processor should be located and what type of plant would make the most sense. It would also identify what steps need to be taken to attract such a plant.
Blaine and Kathy Goetz started Bessy's Best, processing their own dairy products near Sterling, in 2008.
"The price of milk was so low," said Kathy Goetz, adding that they were getting only about $8 per hundredweight.
The Goetzes started by cutting things from their operation that they didn't absolutely need, using home remedies instead of medicines on the cattle.
"We were down to 75 cows, and it was either get out or .," Kathy Goetz said, gesturing to the Bessy's Best processing facility.
"We'd be out of the dairy business (if not for Bessy's Best)," Blaine Goetz told The Bismarck Tribune.
Another processing facility in the region might help dairies if the price is good, he said.