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Milk Surplus, Labor Shortage Already Pinching Hutchinson County Dairy—What Market Room Is Left for Hamlin County Mega-Dairy?

An eager reader and dairy operator who gets her groceries in Freeman writes with concern about the economics of the new $86M, 12.5K-cow dairy that Riverview wants to build on land it will buy from the Arnolds of Hamlin County and the government subsidy it will finagle for the county from their sister’s Office of Economic Development.

My reader says her 2,400-cow Hutchinson County dairy sells its milk to Associated Milk Producers Incorporated—AMPI. She says AMPI’s quota system limits their production and effectively prevents them from adding any cows to their operation. She says her family dairy has tried to contract with other milk processing plants but that those plants have all said they are full and can’t take in any more milk. She says her operation has had to dump truckloads of milk this year—not just back in 2020 when the pandemic fouled our supply chains, but this year, when everything is supposed to be back to normal—because they can’t find buyers.

So if a South Dakota family dairy can’t expand and can’t sell the milk it’s already producing on a herd capped at 2,400, how can corporate dairy Riverview expect to turn a profit on a new dairy churning out five times as much milk? And how can the state justify giving a $4.5M tax break to stimulate production in a sector that can’t support existing producers?

My Hutchinson County correspondent also shares my doubts about Riverview’s professed intention to hire locals to milk its Hamlin County herd. She tells me her family dairy tried hiring all locals a few years ago and found that labor pool dry. Her dairy had to hire Hispanic immigrants, and even they can be tough to come by. She says the AMPI processing plant in Freeman has hired away four of the family dairy’s Hispanic employees in the last couple months.

Riverview’s expansion into Hamlin County with another mega-dairy seems to spell trouble for smaller South Dakota dairies. In the current market, another mega-dairy appears likely to crowd smaller competitors out of both processing-plant space and labor. Is that the effect the Governor’s Office of Economic Development wants to have with its incentives policy?


  1. e platypus onion 2023-10-08

    Farm Burro is likely behind the hidden attempts to drive out smaller dairies and replace them with mega monster dairies. Big Ag is efficient at driving out the smaller guys and Farm Burro has b een behind that effort for decades.

  2. larry kurtz 2023-10-08

    Hey, what’s not to like about six (seven? eight?) month winters, rampant racism, chilling effects on civil rights, an extremist legislature, living in a chemical toilet, sacrifice zone, perpetual welfare state and permanent disaster area.

  3. jerry 2023-10-08

    If there is not a market for the product, then the few Democrats in the legislature should insist on hearings. This is a blatant abuse of fraud on South Dakota taxpayers both now and in the clean ups of this turd pool.

  4. John 2023-10-08

    Told ya’ so . . . it’s the mere front edge of an exponential business model and market collapse . . . sustained in thin air by gub’mint subsidies.
    Precision fermented milk is the exponential technological innovating change. Like electric cars, the US can determine whether to lead or allow its industr(ies) to get swallowed up by the international markets.

  5. Loren 2023-10-08

    If you ever wondered why a person going into politics is willing to spend MILLIONS of $$$ to get a job paying $100M to $200/ year, I think we might be seeing part of the answer in Hamlin county.

  6. Nick Nemec 2023-10-08

    Has this new proposed dairy announced who they will be selling milk to?

    It is a sad day in agriculture when a 2400 head dairy is one of the small dairies being forced out by the bigger operations.

  7. larry kurtz 2023-10-08

    There may be no amount of money some employers can pay workers who already know the risks of working for The Man.

  8. larry kurtz 2023-10-08

    South Dakota is at nearly full employment. Probably not coincidental to Mrs. Noem’s political grandstanding is the flight of talent from the state and calls by its entire congressional delegation to ease immigration rules. Noem’s christianic religionists are apparently void of any compassion and choose to blame Democrats for inflation as labor shortages drive wage increases. It’s hypocritheocracy on meth.

  9. grudznick 2023-10-08

    Mr. jerry, don’t get grudznick wrong on milk. Milk is good. Milk and gravy taters go well together with pancakes.

    But the few Democratic fellows in the legislatures couldn’t demand a hearing for Mother Teresa. The do not demand, they plead or bleat. Like a goat.

  10. grudznick 2023-10-08

    Mr. Loren, grudznick would invest plenty in a job paying 100 million dollars a year. Wouldn’t you?

  11. Arlo Blundt 2023-10-08

    Process the milk into cheese, store it in a government warehouse. When the Warehouse is full, give it away….nothing better than Welfare fact, the Arnold Farm may become a fount of Welfare Cheese…make mine Colby.

  12. e platypus onion 2023-10-08

    ps Riverview has a new dairy at Willow Lake that isn’t in operation, yet.

  13. jerry 2023-10-08

    You may be correct Mr. grudznick, maybe Alison J. Ramsdell, the District of South Dakota U.S. Attorney, might be though. This whole thing stinks (pun intended). Not just because of NOem, but because as noted, where is all the milk going or does it even exist. If a 2,400 cow operation has to dump milk because there is no place for it, where will this milk go? Where do you dump “truck loads” of milk?

  14. Loren 2023-10-08

    For those that went beyond the 3rd grade and learned Roman numerals, we learned M = 1,000, C = 100, V = 5…

  15. Nick Nemec 2023-10-08

    Unpasteurized milk sprayed on farm ground increases the microbial activity of the soil, speeding up decomposition of organic matter and its conversion to nitrogen for growing plants. If you can get the milk for low or no cost it is a good deal. It probably isn’t an efficient way to get more microbial activity in your fields if you have to pay market prices for it.

  16. Loren 2023-10-08

    For Grudz (and Jethro Bodine), multiplication tables were 0x0=x, 0x1=0, 0x2=0, 0x3=0… ;-)

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-10-08

    Milk as fertilizer? Well, I guess dumping that milk isn’t a complete loss…

  18. O 2023-10-08

    Perhaps Riverview will declare itself a “sanctuary dairy” and the Governors of Florida and Texas will bus up the immigrant workforce needed for free?

  19. Edwin Arndt 2023-10-08

    How many pizzas does the USA consume every day, and how much cheese is on
    every pizza?

  20. Linda 2023-10-08

    If there is truly a milk surplus, how come milk is so expensive?

    It really is running quite high, and has not gone down much at all, since the covid shortages.

    Profit taking by big corporation? Is this how they make up for their loss leaders?

  21. Eddie 2023-10-08

    I was recently back for a visit to SD. I paid $5.00 for a gallon of milk. I stopped at Kwik Trip (known as Kwik Star in SD, and IA) ans paid $3.19/gal. Thank god I live in the dairy state. Incidentally, anyone who pays $8.99/lb for Dimock cheese is getting ripped off. Local cheddars from several places are as low as $2.99/lb. And you can get up to 12 y/o cheddar at the grocery store.

  22. P. Aitch 2023-10-08

    The U.S. consumes 3 billion pizzas every year — that’s over 8 million pizzas ordered every day. An average would be about two cups of cheese per pizza.
    *Do you know how to research the answer to a question, Edwin? It’s easy to learn new things.

  23. Arlo Blundt 2023-10-08

    Pizzas?..loaded with fat and salt…real artery cloggers. But…nothing better than Keebler Saltines with cheese and a big glass of milk…sadly, same result.

  24. grudznick 2023-10-08

    The reality, for all you libbies, is that BEER is what a fellow washes down a pizza with

  25. e platypus onion 2023-10-09

    Gallon of milk at Spencer iowa Walmart September 27th was 2.72. The previous month it was 2.50 and has been under three bucks all year so far.

  26. Edwin Arndt 2023-10-09

    P., I was counting on you to do it for me.

  27. P. Aitch 2023-10-09

    @Edwin – Thanks for trusting me.

  28. Scott Odenbach 2023-10-09

    Thank you for shining some light on this misuse of taxpayer money. The reflexive promotion of “economic development” in SD has become a cliche – a meaningless campaign slogan for people too lazy or uninformed to craft their own policy positions. It also presents a conflict of interest when we have legislators directly employed by one of the various “economic development” groups that seek to milk ever-expanding “public-private partnership” programs. It’s out of control. We need major reform that reserves limited taxpayer dollars for historic government functions while encouraging wealthy private-sector actors to compete in the free market.

  29. P. Aitch 2023-10-09

    Columbus was a pig and a murderer. Honor America’s Indigenous roots and traditions and heritage.,

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