Earlier this week, members of the Joint Finance Committee voted to advance legislation aimed at increasing Wisconsin’s agricultural exports. With dairy products as some of the top exports in the country, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) and some of its members have commented on the announcement.
“We believe the potential for growth of Wisconsin’s dairy and cheese exports is limitless,” said WCMA Executive Director John Umhoefer. “We have the high-quality products, the skilled teams, and the right market conditions; all that’s needed is this added support. This legislation will provide a welcome boost to help dairy processors expand their customer base globally and strengthen our state’s leading industry.”
Senate Bill 325/Assembly Bill 314 (SB 325/AB 314), authored by Senator Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) and Representative Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc), creates a new five-year initiative led by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, in partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
The bill aims to increase the export of the state’s dairy, meat, and other agricultural products by 25 percent. According to a press release, it specifies that $2.5 million, or half the total funds appropriated, will be used to increase the export sales of milk, cheese, yogurt, whey, and other dairy products.
“With 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the U.S., exporting is and will continue to be essential to the overall strength of our dairy industry. This assistance will ultimately benefit not only our cheesemakers and dairy processors, but all those involved in Wisconsin’s dairy food chain,” added Mike Neu, Senior Director of Business Development – Cheese Insights at Chr. Hansen, and WCMA member.
Discussions on investing in dairy exporting endeavors began in early 2020 when Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers proposed increased support as part of his call for a special legislative session on rural issues, and again as part of his 2021 budget.
“If we don’t look beyond our borders and gain a foothold in emerging global markets, we’re limiting the dairy industry’s future growth,” stated Jack Heinemann, Export Sales Manager for Specialty Cheese Company, and WCMA member. “With this investment, Wisconsin has the opportunity to bolster its cheesemakers, dairy farmers and rural communities, strengthening our state’s trademark industry for generations to come.”
Kim Heiman, Co-Owner of Nasonville Dairy and another of WCMA’s members, also commented on the bill.
“Sales of dairy products in the United States continue to grow, but only incrementally. This program has the potential to grow Wisconsin’s ‘brand’ globally and support cheesemakers as we develop new products and navigate practical challenges like customs paperwork and international shipping,” said Heiman.
Could this bill potentially impact other sectors such as specialty meats? Deli Market News will be sure to investigate.