Dairy Is on the Decline—So Why Do American Taxpayers Have to Subsidize It?

Here’s the good news: Dairy milk consumption—horrible for cows on dairies, human health, and the environment alike—is on the decline. A perfect storm of lessening consumer demand, trade squabbles, and scaled-back dairy purchasing worldwide has left dairy products piling up—especially in the United States.

The U.S. currently has more than 800 million pounds of excess American cheese and 272 million pounds of excess butter, the USDA calculates. Dairy factory farmers are forcing cows to produce so much that millions of pounds of excess milk are simply dumped onto fields. According to MarketWatch, “In the Midwest and Northeast, nearly 78 million gallons of milk have been dumped so far this year, up 86% from the same period last year.

The bad news? Despite all this milk going to waste because nobody wants it, the U.S. dairy industry is still heavily subsidized by the government—and receiving taxpayer bailouts as a result. Lawmakers lobbied by the dairy industry are asking the USDA to continue using taxpayer money to buy excess cheese. Last year, the agency spent $20 million to do so and this year has already spent all the authorized funds. Now, according to a USDA spokesperson, a new request for yet more taxpayer money to be spent subsidizing this failing, cruel, and unhealthy industry is being considered.

Gee, if only there were some way to stop forcing cows to produce an unnatural and inhumane quantity of milk…

“You can’t turn the cows off,” says Ken Nobis, president of a dairy cooperative in Michigan. Actually, you can. You allow them to naturally live out their lives and lactate only for their babies. As the dairy industry stands now, cows are kept captive, pregnant, and lactating against their will at a nearly nonstop rate for their entire shortened lives. There’s certainly nothing natural about this and nothing that can’t be “turned off.

Instead of adjusting to consumers’ demands for healthier plant-based milk alternatives, the dairy industry is depending on bailouts from taxpayers—many of whom are sick of and made literally sick by their products. The times are changing: Consumers are realizing that they don’t need dairy to be healthy and happy, that in fact they’re better off without it. It’s time for the USDA to get with the times, stand up to the dairy lobby, and protect the health of the American people. It’s time for the USDA to stop subsidizing animal cruelty.

Instead of protecting a food group that’s been proven to increase Americans risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, digestive disorders, and a whole other host of health problems, what if our government helped make vegetables, fruits, and nuts more available in schools and more affordable in food deserts nationwide? What if the government used that same money to help America’s dairy farmers—many of whom may want a more humane and sustainable source of income—transition to plant-based farming that has a less disastrous environmental impact? Now that would be a decision in the best interest of the American people.

In the meantime, you can protest USDA dairy subsidies (and meat subsidies, for that matter) by contacting your representative—and by joining the millions of people who are taking a stand for animals, the environment, and their health by transitioning to a plant-based diet.