"We say one day a week, all the milk in this country goes overseas," said Bob Wellington, an economist with the Agri-Mark Inc. dairy cooperative, which includes Vermont-based Cabot Creamery.
Agri-Mark exports most of its more than 50 million pounds of whey — a byproduct from cheese-making — produced at its Middlebury plant to about a dozen countries.
One of its two whey products has a high protein content and is used in baby food, among other things. The other is used in some foods and animal feed.
The U.S., Wellington said, is "really going to be the milk pitcher of the world."
The international demand is driven by population growth, as well as the number of middle- and higher-income people around the world who want to add dairy to their diets, he said.
Milk prices are expected to remain strong, but political strife in some areas of the world — nothing to do with dairy farming — could affect prices.
Despite the high prices, farmers still have had to deal with high feed and fuel costs, so it's really the margin between the expenses and price they're paid that is considered.
"Gas and diesel prices have kind of leveled off somewhat and then some of the grain prices have gone down somewhat — not huge changes but enough that the profitability is better, and many farmers are cleaning up old debt that they incurred in 2009," said Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.