Want to help stimulate your local economy? Pick up a glass of organic dairy milk or drizzle some over your cereal. While presidential candidates fought over job creation tactics over the last few months, it turns out your neighborhood heifers were the ones actually stimulating growth in rural communities. A first-of-its-kind report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently found that dairies—specifically organic ones—contributed millions to states' economies over the last few years while other industries, including conventional farming, faced serious setbacks.
"Over the past 30 years, dairy farmers have had a choice: Either get big or get out. Dairy farmers either had to expand dramatically and become large industrial operations or they went out of business," says Jeffrey O'Hara, agricultural economist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS and author of the report. "However, organic dairy production offers farmers another option—one that is better for the environment, produces a healthier product, and leads to greater levels of economic activity."
Looking at data collected from dairy-friendly states Vermont and Minnesota, analysts found organic farms in the two states combined to create $154 million and about 1,700 jobs.
Read More: 7 Things You Need to Start Buying Organic
Of course, these stats are even more encouraging considering organic milk is healthier. Numerous studies show organic milk contains higher levels of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Cows that provide organic milk eat feed free of chemical pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients, a technology that has never been tested for long-term impact on human health. Organic cows do not receive genetically engineered growth hormones, either.
That seems to be striking a chord with the public. Nationwide, organic dairy farming is growing and represents a $750 million business. In 2010, organic milk sales rose 12 percent.
Read More: Why Healthier Milk Comes From Organic Cows
Despite this, UCS is critical of the United States Department of Agriculture's programs and the taxpayer-subsidized payments through the Farm Bill that tend to favor large conventional dairies that rely on chemicals and medications to produce milk. Currently, action on the 2012 Farm Bill is overdue, essentially set aside until after the presidential election. UCS says now is the perfect time to contact your federal lawmakers and USDA officials, asking them to support organic-dairy-friendly initiatives—after all, these dairies are helping to stabilize economies.
For more info, download the complete Cream of the Crop: The Economic Benefits of Organic Dairy Farms.