Skip to main content

Minnesota has lost more than 800 licensed dairy farms since 2017

Low milk prices have taken a toll on dairy farmers nationwide.

The number of licensed dairy farms in Minnesota continues to decline at a steady pace. 

New data from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) says 315 dairy farms stopped operations between Jan. 1, 2019 and New Year's Day 2020. It's the second consecutive year with more than 300 lost dairies. 

On Jan. 1, 2017, Minnesota had 3,258 licensed dairy farms. That number stands at 2,448 as of Jan. 1, 2020, so a three-year loss of 810 dairy operations. 

Margaret Hart, communications director for the MDA, says "the number of farms going out of business over the past five years has been higher than normal due to low prices." 

Licenses dairy farms since 2017: 

  • Jan. 1, 2017: 3,258
  • Jan. 1, 2018: 3,076
  • Jan. 1, 2019: 2,763
  • Jan. 1, 2020: 2,448

The data from the MDA is for licensed dairies only – the Grade A and B farms that the MDA inspects to ensure milk is ready for commercial sales – so it doesn't include the dairy farms that operate only to produce milk for their own consumption. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 1.50.03 PM

The MDA doesn't know how many non-licensed dairies there are in Minnesota because they don't require inspection. 

"It's not a huge number, but we just don't know exactly," said Hart. 

It should be noted that some dairies have ceased operations temporarily. Those that intentionally stopped milking temporarily fall into a "dried off" category, meaning they could resume operations within 60 days. 

For example, 47 dairies stopped operations between the 1st of December and New Year's Day. Twenty-five of the 47 dried off, meaning they intend to resume milking within approximately 60 days. 

Low milk prices aren't just a Minnesota problem. According to the USDA, nearly 20,000 licensed dairy farms have disappeared nationally over the past decade, a decline of around 30 percent. 

Milk prices have plummeted around 23 percent over the past five years, according to the USDA. That decline exists even with milk prices in 2019 trending higher after the average national price in 2014 peaked at $25.70 before free-falling to less than $15 at one point in 2016. 

Next Up


Hospital chiefs say nursing strike will come at 'worst possible time'

A nurses union announced an almost three-week strike to take place in the Twin Cities.


Sven Sundgaard: What's in store for MN's weather in December?

Sundgaard recaps Minnesota's fall and looks ahead to December.


Manure spill in Wisconsin leads to hours-long main street disruption

The spill was first reported just before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.


Ice Cube to perform 2 nights at Mystic Lake Casino

The rapper hasn't performed in Minnesota since 2018.


Nicollet Mall's new Ties Lounge & Rooftop closes 'indefinitely'

The establishment aimed to reconnect the downtown community.

Screen Shot 2022-12-01 at 9.15.44 AM

Chinese restaurant closing after 50 years in Columbia Heights

The beloved family-owned restaurant will close Dec. 24.

Screen Shot 2022-12-01 at 9.43.40 AM

Kris Laudien leaving KARE 11 after four years on 'Sunrise'

KARE 11 announced the appointment of Jason Hackett to the morning show this week.


MN's COVID update for the week ending Tuesday, Nov. 29

There are now more than 570 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota.


Twin Cities nurses to strike for 20 days starting Dec. 11

A strike in Duluth and Two Harbors doesn't have an end date set.


barn, winter

20 cattle barns have collapsed in MN under weight of heavy snow

All of the snow is taking a toll on dairy farmers.

Dairy farms evaporating throughout Minnesota

Long strenuous hours and rising operating costs can be blamed for fewer milk producers in Minnesota. The Star Tribune reports there are roughly 4,079 dairy farms in the state -- 356 fewer than in January 2011.

Mark berg

Minnesota dairy farmer breaks down over family's plight in viral video

Many smaller farming operations are struggling in Minnesota.

farming field

Man's leg severely injured in central Minnesota farming accident

The accident happened around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19.

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 12.34.21 PM

Minnesota farming family fighting to stay in America

The farmer's sons are forced to leave the country when they turn 21.

Wisconsin dairy cows set new state record; production falls in Minnesota

Milk production in the dairy state jumped less than 1 percent from 2010, but that was still enough to set a new state record. The Winona Daily News says Wisconsin cows accounted for 1 out of every 8 gallons of milk in the United States. Minnesota, meanwhile, saw dairy production dip about 2 percent.