Dairy industry growing in South Dakota


MILBANK, S.D. (KELO) – The dairy industry is a big part of South Dakota’s economy. 

In Milbank at Valley Queen Cheese, 65,000 cows from 42 farms provide milk to the plant. 90 percent of all that milk comes from South Dakota.  On Wednesday, Senator John Thune and the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture took a tour of the plant and met with area processors.

Valley Queen Cheese was founded in 1929.  The plant processes 4.3 million pounds of milk per day. With a recent $53 million expansion, they will increase that by 25 percent.  That’s just one example of how the industry is growing.

“Valley Queen finds itself in a really fortunate situation where we have more demand for our products from our customers than we can supply, we’ve got a growing milk base and we have owners that are willing to invest in the business,” Valley Queen CEO Doug Wilke said.

Wednesday, processors and government leaders met to discuss what’s important to dairy.

“There are several issues that they care about.  One is trade; obviously the export market is opening up for dairy products growing here in the United States and so that is something we are paying attention to,” Thune said.

Plus the economic impact of the dairy industry in the state.

“Agriculture as a whole is our number one industry and we are so grateful to have this dairy industry with processors and the farmers producing the milk,” South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Kim Vanneman said.

“There’s a lot of growth here along the I-29 corridor in South Dakota.  Great location, great regulations and policy.  It is a growth story for dairy,” International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes said.

And a positive story for the entire state. 

“It’s encouraging to see the amount of investment that’s being made in facilities like this here at Valley Queen and others around South Dakota, and the number of dairy farmers is growing.  And they have to because you need to have all the milk supply to keep all these processors going.  So a lot of jobs, and a big impact on a lot of rural communities in our state,” Thune said.

After the tour through the plant, processors and government leaders had a roundtable discussion. Dykes said one of the top topics of conversation was trade.

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