BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota dairy producers are hoping to save the declining industry by attracting a specialty dairy products plant.
The state has seen a drop in dairy farms in recent years, from 350 farms in 2002 to just 86 farms today, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
A joint study of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture determined that the industry’s best options include getting a new processing plant in the area. A more detailed plan to identify incentives will be compiled over the next 12 months.
In order to stay relevant, North Dakota and South Dakota will have to go into niche production, such as specialty cheese, whey or a different kind of fluid milk, said Jerry Messer of the North Dakota and Midwest Dairy Coalition.
“We need to find what’s that niche for us,” Messe said.
He estimated the cost of any such facility would range between $100 million to $140 million. It would have the capability to take in between 500,000 and 1 million pounds of milk per day.
Messe said North Dakota has the benefits of land availability and cheaper construction and operating costs than some other areas of the country. But he noted that a processing plant would likely go to the state with better development incentives.
“There are some things we’re going to need help with,” he said.
Republican Sen. Terry Wanzek also is looking to help the industry. He has introduced a bill that offers tax breaks for dairy equipment.
“For anyone willing to make the investment, it’s more or less giving them a little bit of help,” he said. “We just need to get animal agriculture kick-started here.”