Dairy Industry Critical to South Dakota

South Dakota’s strong dairy production and processing industries add $2.4 billion to South Dakota’s economy. Business taxes paid by the dairy industry equal more than $23 million per year.

In fact, each dairy cow in South Dakota generates $26,294 in economic impact.

Twenty or 30 years ago, the state had as many as 250,000 dairy cows. Today, the number of dairy cows in South Dakota has dropped to approximately 118,000.

The last few years have seen a resurgence of dairy activity in the state. Experts believe the state can support a return to the numbers from 20 to 30 years ago. They reason that if we could supply enough feed and handle the waste from 250,000 cows back then, we can certainly do it today.

South Dakota’s dairy industry creates 6,230 jobs. However, in a ripple effect, the dairy industry lifts up other farm businesses, due to the need for corn, hay, dried distillers grains and other feedstuffs; a wide variety of equipment; veterinary care; construction; transportation and much more.

In addition, South Dakota State University (SDSU) has become a national leader in dairy science, with a state-of-the-art production facility, rising program enrollment, 100 percent job placement and the only dairy manufacturing major in the country.

With a concentration of expertise and availability of infrastructure, South Dakota can offer the dairy industry continuing growth for the benefit of all in the state.



Ag United
Midwest Dairy

It’s an economic powerhouse! Farming is South Dakota’s largest economic sector.

  • Production agriculture’s direct effect on the South Dakota economy was $8.3 billion, representing the value of products produced. [2]
  • An additional impact of $3.4 billion results from businesses supplying inputs, and effects of increased household spending are $1.6 billion, bringing the total to $13.3 billion for production agriculture. [2]
  • Agriculture contributes more than $645 million to South Dakota’s tax revenues. [2]

With more than 19 million acres of cropland and 23 million acres of pastureland, our farmers and ranchers are one of our economy’s key drivers, with:

  • 5.3 million acres of corn [3]
  • 4.71 million acres of soybeans [3]
  • 3.1 million acres of hay [3]
  • 2.28 million acres of wheat [3]
  • 1.85 million acres of alfalfa [3]
  • 623,000 acres of sunflowers [3]
  • 50,000 acres of oats [3]
  • 30,000 acres of millet [3]
  • 12,900 acres of pulse crops [3]
  • Corn production in South Dakota accounted for 6.4 percent of statewide GDP, 6.9 percent of labor income and 5.5 percent of all jobs in the state in 2011. [4]
  • South Dakota’s corn producers pumped $2.43 billion into the state’s economy, providing $1.71 billion in total labor income to 31,761 jobholders. [4]
  1. 2014 South Dakota Ag Economic Contribution Study
  2. 2011 South Dakota State University Combined Research and Extension Plan of Work
  3. South Dakota Dept. of Ag 2014 Fact sheet, The Common Thread
  4. The Economic Impact of Corn Production in South Dakota Study by Dave Swenson