Skip to main content
Publish date:

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

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Woman in critical condition after being shot in the head in St. Paul

Officers responded to the incident at around 2:45 a.m. Saturday.

Alexander Mattison

Vikings-Lions: 5 things you can count on

It's a great time for the Vikings to play the Lions.


Omicron variant confirmed in Wisconsin man who traveled to South Africa

Five other cases have been confirmed and linked to a Wisconsin wedding.

Sharon Mollerus - duluth - snow plow car

Sunday snowstorm walloping MN's North Shore with huge totals

Just ridiculous snow totals expected the rest of Sunday.

Screen Shot 2021-12-05 at 6.49.03 AM

Saturday snow causes havoc on Twin Cities roads

There were countless spinouts and crashes across Minnesota.

Kirill Kaprizov

Wild win battle of NHL's hottest teams, extend winning streak to six

Kirill Kaprizov delivered a shootout winner to take down the Maple Leafs.

Eric Kendricks

Vikings downgrade Eric Kendricks to out against Lions

The Vikings have also activated Michael Pierce from injured reserve.

u.s. attorney

Minnesotan sentenced after assaulting man with baseball bat

Marshall Wayne Boshey was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release.

Target store

Target's gift card discount is back, but for this weekend only

The fine print: for Target Circle members only (but membership is free).


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.