Since the dawn of civilization, agriculture has been improved by a continuous process of breeding new plants and animals. Some of the earliest genetic modifications came when herders figured out how to breed certain of their livestock– including Aurochs, the ancient ancestors of today’s dairy cow – to improve their desirable traits.
It has been five years now since the dark days of early 2009, when the combined assault of collapsing milk prices and elevated feed costs produced a hemorrhage of red ink from America’s dairy farms. Collectively, dairy farmers lost $20 billion in net equity between 2007 and 2009, with most of that money disappearing in huge chunks during 2009, when gallon after gallon of milk left the farm at a severe loss. Five years later, the pain and memory lingers, even as balance sheets are recovering.