State agriculture officials say a decision by Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) to locate a major milk processing facility in Fort Wayne validates what they say is a promising future for the state’s dairy industry. Walmart and state officials last week christened the state-of-the-art facility, which employs 300 and will buy milk from hundreds of northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio farmers. "I think Walmart saw the business climate in Indiana, but they also know that we are able to do these things very well," said Indiana Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler, who notes the deal is part of a broader dairy strategy the state embarked on three years ago. "We were letting about four million pounds of milk a day go outside the borders of Indiana," said Kettler. "Now with this facility and with other efforts to bring more processing to Indiana, we’re going to stem that tide and, in fact, can actually make that four million pounds coming into the state of Indiana."
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Kettler talked about efforts to grow the state’s dairy industry.
Indiana already enjoys a robust dairy sector, ranking 14th in the country for milk production and 2nd in ice cream production. Kettler and others believe there is opportunity to grow those numbers substantially. "We’re looking to bring more cheese plants and other processing facilities into the state here in the next year or so, and we continue to reach out to those companies and let them know what we have here," said Kettler.