What's going on behind the scenes of agriculture?

John Oncken
Attendance at Dairy Expo increased over 2021.

The concerns that World Dairy Expo 2022 attendance might be dramatically impacted by the declining dairy farm numbers proved a bit unfounded as 54,525 visitors headed to the Alliant Energy Center in Madison for the 55th event. Last year 48,562 people were attendance.

Note: Historically, Expo has used a formula to calculate the number of attendees. This year, the new event schedule placed ticket-takers at the gates for only four days – rather than five. Also, the change to digital admission passes allowed Expo to move to a more detailed counting system.

There were 460 volunteers and 150 event workers joining the Expo staff of ten full-time employees to host this event

More cattle

World Dairy Expo set a new record for animals housed during the event. The previous record of 2,657 was set in 2008 This year's show housed 2,663 (plus 6 head) animals competing in breed shows and selling at auctions during the week. The numbers, by breed were: Ayrshire: 289; Brown Swiss 390: Guernsey 197; Holstein 508; Junior Holstein 258; Jersey 439; Milking Shorthorn 243; and Red & White 372. There were 1871 cattle Exhibitors from 36 states and 5 Canadian provinces.

The 2022 Trade Show of 672 exhibitors (112 new) compares favorably with the 683 exhibitors (89 new) of a year ago.

The crowds came back in 2022.

Looking back 20 years

  • 2017: Attendance of 68,710; 2,356 cattle from 1,772 exhibitors
  • 2012: Attendance of 71,788, 2,385 cattle from 1,234 exhibitors
  • 2007: Attendance of 67,143, 2483 cattle from 903 exhibitors
  • 2002: Attendance of 70,100, 2,054 cattle from 786 exhibitors

Thus, over the past 20 years, attendance has dropped by 15,000, cattle numbers have gone up by 609 head and the number of cattle exhibitors has increased by 1,085. But, don't forget that the dairy barns have been totally replaced over that period and more important dairying itself has changed.

September milk production was slightly above a year ago

Milk production about stable

The latest USDA milk production report outlining U.S. September showed milk production was up a modest 1.5% over September 2021. The report included 9,411 million cows, an increase of 6,000 from a year ago. Year-over-year growth in cow numbers was led by South Dakota, who added 46 million lbs. of milk, a positive reflection of 14.9%, as well as 25,000 additional cows. This continued the states' impressive growth trend.

The top six dairy production state are: California; Wisconsin, Idaho; Texas, New York and Michigan. Although California and Wisconsin have been the top two milk production state for a long time, there is little danger that this will change. Here are the USDA figures for September:

The USDA released the latest in milk production from the top six milk producing states.

If you haven't noticed, Idaho and Texas have made impressive milk production growth in recent years supplanting New York in the top five dairy production rankings.

Just five years ago in 2017, New York ranked #4, with Pennsylvania #5 in production behind California, Wisconsin and Idaho.

Looking back 20 years to 2002, the ranking were #1 California; #2 Wisconsin; #3 New York; #4 Pennsylvania; #5 Minnesota; and #6 Idaho. The move of dairy farms from the Chino area in California to Texas is the reason for the bigger milk flow in that state.

Super market merger questioned

Several members of the U.S. Senate, as well as several organizations, are concerned over the proposed merger of Kroger and the Albertson Companies, Inc. Kroger and Albertsons announced that Kroger will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Albertsons for an estimated total enterprise value of about $24.6 billion.

While the proposed merger of Kroger-Albertson involves over 4,000 supermarkets, there is but one Hollandale Grocery.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) “Top 100 Retailers 2022 List,” The Kroger Co. ranks fifth among US retailers, with 2021 US retail sales of $136.49 billion, while Albertsons Companies ranks 10th, with 2021 US retail sales of $71.87 bil- lion.

A merger of the nation’s top two grocery chains should raise serious questions about a single supermarket giant gaining unprecedented dominance over the nation’s food supply chain,” said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the retail and wholesale community grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. “A merger would not only put smaller competitors at an unfair disadvantage, but also increase anti-competitive buyer power over grocery suppliers, which ultimately would harm consumers.”

The questions? Do we need an ever-bigger Kroger?  Apparently they think so. What is the optimum size for a grocery store?  Always bigger, I guess. And, does anyone really care? I do!

John F. Oncken is at