Five-point-three billion dollars. That's what the U-S-D-A says California's 21-hundred diary farmers were paid last year for the 36 billion pounds of milk they produced. That's over a billion dollars more than they received in 2003 and one and a half billion more than 2002.
But last year was the first time in a while that farmers made significant profits, according to Tiffany LaMendola of Western United Dairymen.
"For a majority of producers they simply used 2004 as a period to recoup some of the losses for 2002 and 2003."
The losses were the result of too much production and not enough demand during those years. Lamendola says last year's upswing in demand came about because of increased cheese production.
About 40 percent of the milk produced in the state is used for cheese products.
(Photo Courtesy: California Farm Bureau Federation)