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Press File Photo Cattle are milked at a dairy farm near Dickinson in this undated photo. Agriculture leaders are looking for ways to bring back the dairy industry in North Dakota.

Effort to expand ND dairy industry

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By Jonathan Knutson

Forum News Service

North Dakota agriculture leaders are working on a plan to revitalize the state’s long-declining milk industry.

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“We’re excited. We have all the building blocks, and now we need to put them together,” said Amber Boeshans, North Dakota Department of Agriculture livestock development specialist who is involved with the project.

Members of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition, which represents dairy producers, leaders of crop groups and the dairy industry met recently in Mandan to discuss how to attract more farmers to dairy production.

The effort is still in the planning stage, Boeshans said. She isn’t certain when the plan will be completed.

North Dakota now has fewer than 100 dairy farms. The number has declined for years, reflecting, in part, the difficulties that some producers face in contracting with a processing plant. State agriculture leaders have tried to strengthen North Dakota’s dairy industry, but have enjoyed little success so far.

Even so, the state’s wide-open spaces and plentiful feed supplies, among other factors, are seen as reasons for optimism about dairy’s future in North Dakota.

“We’re producing so much high-quality feed (in North Dakota), and we’re exporting it to other states. We need to keep it here, so we can feed it to our own cows,” Boeshans said.

She said North Dakota has learned, and continues to learn, from South Dakota’s successful efforts to rebuild its dairy industry.

“We have South Dakota as a role model of how to go about doing this,” she said, adding that the North Dakota agriculture department has a good relationship with its South Dakota counterpart.

Some milk produced in both states is processed at several dairy plants in South Dakota, giving the two states something else in common, she said.

North Dakota’s effort to rebuild its dairy industry will include working with crop producers who are interested in adding dairy cows to their operations, Boeshans said.

Commodity groups, including corn, soybeans and ethanol, support efforts to strengthen North Dakota’s dairy industry, she said.

The North Dakota agriculture department and the North Dakota Dairy Coalition are working more closely. Boeshans now serves as the Dairy Coalition’s contact person.

Boeshans is optimistic that good things soon will be happening in North Dakota’s dairy industry.

“Stay tuned. It’s going to be a pretty fun deal,” she said.

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