According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the US state had 146 fewer dairy farmer permits in Christmas 2023 than it did at the beginning of that year. Minnesota lost 58 dairy farm permits in November 2023, many more than usual, which indicates the weak financial margins for dairy farmers under a crush of economic pressures.

Possibly due in part to the popularity of plant-based milks, and to the fact the general population is beginning to distance themselves from the dairy industry after discovering the damage it causes to the environment, animals, and people’s health, this industry is in decline. A decade ago, the state counted over 4,000 dairy farms, but as of 1st December 2023, the state had a total of 1,825 dairy permits.

Lucas Sjostrom, executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, said to the Star Tribune, “We have some seasonality to this. In October, November and December, you’ll always see some herds go. But I have not seen [a monthly decline in permits] over 50 for a long time.”

The largest losses in 2023 were in central Minnesota’s dairy heartland, with Stearns and Morrison counties seeing 27 and 21 fewer permits in December than in the previous January, respectively. Fillmore, Goodhue and Houston also saw significant losses. 

However, dairy farmers have not gone bankrupt due to the State and national subsidies the dairy industry receives, which are very unfair as no similar subsidies are given to the farms that produce plants for alternatives to dairy products. Minnesota’s Dairy Assistance, Investment and Relief Initiative is designed to give dairy farmers funds during crashes in cow milk prices.

Last year, a study analysing lobbying, subsidies and regulations in the EU and the US found that the power of the meat and dairy industries is blocking the development of the greener alternatives needed to transition to a plant-based food system better for the environment, human health, and non-human animals’ lives. Animal agriculture in the EU received 1,200 times more public funding than plant-based meat alternatives, and in the US animal farmers got 800 times more subsidies.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.