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Dairy Farmers Hope To Milk Processing Demand For All Its Worth

Antony Oliver

A new milk bottling plant outside Fort Wayne will be among the largest in the nation, and the state is hoping it's just the beginning of much-needed growth for Indiana's dairy industry.

The state made dairy processing a priority almost exactly a year ago. The goal? Use more of the milk that’s produced, and increase its value before it's shipped away. A first step -- the 250 thousand-square-foot Walmart plant, announced last week and set to open in 2017.

Officials aren't saying yet just how much raw milk it'll turn into bottles of white and chocolate.

But any extra capacity will be good news for Indiana dairy. Right now, the industry sends about four million pounds of raw milk out of state every day -- and farmers like Brian Houin have had to dump what's left over. 

“That's not good for anybody,” he says. “That just makes the cost of milk greater, because we're having to pay to dispose of good quality milk.”

Agriculture secretary Ted McKinney is hoping the bottling plant will help cut down that surplus – but he says they’ll need more capacity to finish it off.

“We're very happy, but we're selfish,” says McKinney. “We'd like to see sustained growth.”

That could mean attracting bigger processors of cheese or ice cream, where Indiana is already second in the nation. McKinney hopes more of those plants will follow Walmart's lead.

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