IDAHO: What is “Big Dairy?”

Some are surprised to learn that 95 percent of American dairy farms are family-owned businesses, not Fortune 500 corporations.

By Karianne Fallow

Put the words “Big Dairy” into Google and you see efforts by activist groups trying to portray the U.S. dairy industry as an impersonal and faceless corporate entity.

Let’s look at the facts. More than 95 percent of American dairy farms are family-owned businesses, not Fortune 500 corporations. What’s more, unlike many industries, dairy is decentralized, boosting the economies of every rural community, city and state.

Bernie Teunissen and his wife, Anna, center, are passing the torch of their dairy farm to sons Derek and B.J. Teunissen. Photo: Dairy West.

Dairy is open to anyone with a vision and drive for hard work. It thinks globally but acts locally. I see it every day in Idaho, where I am CEO of Dairy West. Our slogan is “Pioneers by Nature” and our mission is “creating a world where farmers and the dairy industry prosper and, together, build healthy communities around the globe.”

When you assess the economic impact from farm to table on related industries, dairy creates nearly 3 million U.S. jobs, according to Dairy Delivers℠, the International Dairy Foods Association’s economic impact tool.

Dairy spreads its wings from New Jersey to Idaho and beyond, providing the U.S. economy:

  • 978,000 jobs directly.
  • Another 2 million jobs indirectly.
  • $628 billion in total economic impact.
  • $64 billion in business taxes.
  • More than 1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

What’s more, with 95 percent of the world’s population living beyond U.S. borders, and global demand for dairy increasing, exports are projected to rise, creating even more jobs.

“Big Dairy” is millions of Americans working real jobs with real stories.

Take, for example, Bernie Teunissen, whose family owns Beranna Dairy in Caldwell, Idaho. Bernie is a third-generation descendant of Dutch immigrants who made dairy their American dream. They passed their passion to their children and children’s children, who kept the farm going producing high-protein milk.

Bernie Teunissen, whose family owns Beranna Dairy in Caldwell, Idaho. Bernie is a third-generation descendant of Dutch immigrants who made dairy farming their American dream. Photo courtesy of Dairy West.

Bernie and his wife, Anna, are now passing the torch again, to sons Derek and B.J. Teunissen. These brothers are taking over day-to-day management of 3900 cows with springs in their steps and sparkles of hope in their eyes, utilizing the latest in dairy farming technology.

It’s enough to make a dairy Dad proud. Dairy already creates nearly 42,000 jobs in Idaho alone. Derek and B.J. will be adding to that total for years to come.

“It has always been a dream of ours that our children would be involved,” Bernie says. “That’s something we cherish deeply. The heritage of farming is something I think we are very proud of and take very seriously.”

What is Big Dairy?

Decide for yourself after watching this video of the Teunissen family we created.

More than 95 percent of U.S. dairy farmers are family-owned like this one.
Karianne Fallow is CEO of Dairy West.