State's dairy farms growing, thanks to exports

KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) - The value of Washington's dairy exports has soared.

The Tri-City Herald reports that according to the state Department of Agriculture, the state exported more than $461 million worth of dairy products in 2011. That's a 35 percent increase in three years.

Washington is the nation's second largest exporter of dairy products, after California. Darigold, which is owned by the Northwest Dairy Association, a co-op representing about 85 percent of the dairy farmers in Washington, says it has been expanding exports consistently.

Dermot Carey, a senior vice president at Darigold, says it's exporting more to Asia as economic growth fuels demand for dairy products in countries that don't have the infrastructure or climate to increase their own milk production.

The Yakima Valley is one of the largest dairy-producing areas in the nation. Benton, Franklin, Klickitat and Yakima counties have 91 dairies and more than 110,000 cows.

In 2011, the state's milk production was valued at $1.3 billion, up 34 percent from 2010.