South Dakota Wants More Dairies

February 16, 2012 02:53 PM

State’s governor and agriculture secretary attend World Ag Expo to attract dairies.

South Dakota brought the big guns out to California’s World Ag Expo this week.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones visited the farm show with one goal: to woo more dairies to their state.

"We’ve got dairy processing facilities looking to expand in communities across South Dakota, but they need more milk," said Daugaard. "With the recent announcement that Bel Brands will build a large cheese-processing plant in Brookings, we’re making a concerted effort to expand existing dairy operations and bring new ones to our state."

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South Dakota's Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones (left), Gov. Dennis Daugaard (center) and dairy development specialist David Skaggs attend World Ag Expo on Wednesday. (Photo: Catherine Merlo)
South Dakota has about 90,000 cows, which produced more than 1.8 billion pounds of milk last year. To meet the increasing demand for milk over the next several years, however, the state will need to increase its dairy cattle herds by several thousand head.
The state’s high-profile presence at this week’s farm equipment show in Tulare, Calif., yielded "a very positive response," said David Skaggs, dairy development specialist with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.
"I have no doubt we’ll be building dairies in South Dakota as soon as this fall as a result of being at this show," Skaggs said.
Some of those expected transplants are the result of four or five years of relationship-building, according to Skaggs. "Everybody is getting nervous about California’s environmental regulations and also about more acreage going into trees," he said. "We have the acres for forages in South Dakota –- corn, alfalfa, soybeans, wheat."
Some operations have regained enough equity in their operations since 2009's downturn to afford to build "a satellite operation" in the receptive Midwest. They’re also drawn by South Dakota’s support and easy access to the higher levels of government. Gov. Daugaard’s office "has an open-door policy and is only a phone call away," Skaggs said. "The permitting process takes 90 days if a dairy is in the right location."
"Our reasonable feed costs, favorable tax climate, strong demand for milk and unwavering support for agriculture make South Dakota a perfect place to expand the dairy industry," said Daugaard, who grew up on a dairy.

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