The university, in response to the industry’s
need, is looking at merging agricultural
engineering curriculum with dairy science.
The program is now attracting students
from a number of outside states, including
California and Michigan.
While SDSU is trying to train the next
generation of dairy workers, there is a
labor shortage in the industry. However,
there are projects under way to address
the problem, including a robotic milk
system that has the capability to milk
Other plants have had success in
recruiting immigrant labor, including
refugees from the Karen ethnic group
of Myanmar. Families have been legally
immigrating to the areas of Huron and
Aberdeen, South Dakota since the mid-
2000s, and have been recently opening
new Asian businesses, interjecting new
culture and life into the towns.
In terms of the dairy industry’s future
in the state, Sanderson said it probably
won’t see any major spurt, but instead
will continue to grow steadily, particularly
meeting consumer demand for more
artisanal cheese production.
With a total of 39 plants — 28
in Canada and 11 in the U.S. —
Agropur is one of North America’s
leading dairy processors.
Ten years ago, the Canadian-based
company made a decision to grow its
business, particularly in the U.S. market.
Part of that effort led to the 2014 purchase
of the former DAVISCO cheese plant in
Lake Norden, South Dakota. “We saw that
if we didn’t grow, someone else would,”
said Tim Czmowski, vice president of
operations for Agropur.
Agropur wanted to boost its production
and had originally designated its plant in
Hull, Iowa for an expansion. But after the
acquisition of the Lake Norden plant, the
focus was shifted to South Dakota.
Since then, the company has been
working to grow its milk supply in the
state. The original plant processed 3. 3
million pounds of milk per day, but the
expansion plans called for adding six
million more pounds of milk per day.
“We’ve done a lot of recruiting of dairy
farmers,” said Czmowski. “The goal
of cheese processing is to be within a
50-mile radius of your supplier farms, but
we’ll probably be at the 80-mile mark.”
Currently, the plant adds an estimated
$500 million to the state’s annual economy.
But after the expansion, the annual revenue
is expected to reach $1.5 billion. “And 85
percent of our revenue goes out in checks
to milk producers,” said Czmowski. “This
The expansion is expected to cost
approximately a $250 million, and ranks
as the largest project for Agropur, an
80-year-old company. It also ranks as one
of the largest private investments in South
Construction began in early 2017 and
the expansion is expected to be completed
in March 2019. However, Czmowski
said the plant will ramp up its cheese
production over the next two years to
reach its 9. 3 million pounds of daily milk
The plant employs 225 people, but will
add 125 employees when the expansion
is finished. Since the town is home to
approximately 400 people, Agropur is
a major employer. But the anticipated
additional workforce is a rather small
amount when considering the expansion
will be tripling the plant’s capacity. “We
will be employing the efficiencies of
automation,” said Czmowski.
The plant currently makes 15 different
types of cheese, but the expansion
is focused on producing more soft
Italian cheeses, such as provolone and
mozzarella. However, the design of the new
The cheese processing line at Agropur’s Lake Norden, South Dakota plant.
Agropur’s Lake Norden plant currently processes 3. 3 million pounds of milk per
day, but will have the capacity to process over nine million pounds of milk per
day after its expansion is completed.