So, how important is dairy in swing states?
Let’s look at two lists – the top eight U.S. dairy states, and the eight closest states in the 2016 presidential election. Notice anything? Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota – three states that flipped the White House to President Donald Trump in 2016, and another state that came very close – are all top dairy producers.
Dairy’s swing-state strength is the confluence of the industry’s history and America’s political evolution. Livestock and commodity crops were served by railroad networks that could transport the bounty of Midwest and Plains states to more heavily populated regions. Dairy, being more perishable, developed closer to urban areas. As U.S. politics has become increasingly polarized on urban-rural lines, dairy farmers find themselves living in states where big cities and small towns collide.
Dairy farmers live where the political battlegrounds are. They didn’t ask to be there, but if they’re potential difference-makers, it’s worth knowing what they want. Expanded exports are a start. A workable farm-labor system is needed to maintain productivity. Making sure that fake dairy products are properly labeled would go a long way toward ending consumer deception and warming a dairy farmer’s heart. And maybe a candidate could consider drinking a refreshing glass of whole milk at an event – it’s good for them, in many ways.
The next year will be exciting, and crucial for the direction of America. Dairy farmers will play an important role in this decision. We at NMPF already know how much dairy votes matter. Smart candidates will know that too.