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In the US, dairy has a farm value of production that makes it second only to beef . Despite increasing efficiency of production, domestic dairy demand has remained so high that US dairy farmers have found little incentive to export abroad. Significant export activity is limited to powdered milk and cheese to Mexico. But as seen in Chart 1, the US imports large quantities of dairy products, especially relatively expensive cheese products from the European Union.
Dairy prices are historically relatively stable. However, even small fluctuations in price can have a big effect on related companies. The USDA projects that a slight increase in the number of milk-producing cows and increasing milk production efficiency will result in a continued drop in domestic dairy prices.
The USDA forecasted the 2007 all milk price 10 cents higher than the earlier $19.05 prediction to $19.15. In 2008, the all milk price forecast is increased from $18.00 to $18.80. The minimum price of raw milk is regulated in most parts of the country by the government at $9.90, but ever since Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), a dairy farmers group, put into place initiatives in 2002 to control milk supply by retiring herds, milk price have shot up and have remained around $14.
A growing export market may counteract the effect of domestic dairy price drops. Chinese dairy consumption is growing at an annual 15%, and many other developing countries weigh in at about 10%--comparing such numbers to the US's annual domestic consumption growth of a paltry 0.4% has led many to believe that China could be the US's next big dairy surplus export market.