Companies that adopt sustainable and conscious business practices are the industry’s jumpstarters for change. However, until these companies earn the attention of state government, not much is likely to change industry-wide. A member of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), Eau Galle Cheese Factory, is engaging local government in order to address challenges and opportunities present in the dairy industry. This past Friday, Eau Galle hosted Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers to its production facility for an exclusive tour and discussion.
“Our family has a history and passion for cheesemaking, and we’re eager to grow our business here in Wisconsin,” said Steve Bechel, Vice President of Operations for Eau Galle Cheese Factory and WCMA First Vice President. “With reasonable regulation and targeted investments in the dairy industry, the state can help us overcome the challenges of dynamic changes in international trade and a widespread workforce shortfall.”
According to a press release, the family-owned business opened in 1945 and makes award-winning Italian-style cheeses, including Asiago and Parmesan, crafted from fresh milk sourced from 39 farmers within a 25-mile radius of its manufacturing facility. In 2019, the company reinvested in its cheese-brining system, replacing an outdated system that allows for added capacity for future growth. Today, the business employs 27 people full-time and nine people on a part-time basis.
“Our dairy industry is such an important part of Wisconsin’s economy and our heritage, but last year, we lost almost two dairy farms a day,” said Governor Evers. “We have to do more to connect the dots to make sure our farmers have the support they need to be successful, and that’s why I was excited to visit Eau Galle Cheese Factory today to talk about how to best support the dairy industry in our state.”
In the first year of his term, Governor Evers has supported key legislative and regulatory efforts for dairy manufacturers and processors in Wisconsin. Evers supported the creation of the Dairy Innovation Hub, a program which will direct $8.8 million in state funding for increased training and industry development initiatives at the University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison, Platteville, and River Falls. He announced a $750,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation grant for the creation of the Beverage Innovation Center at the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and is helping to guide the ongoing CDR building project. He has also signaled support for Senate Bill 219, legislation that will increase rural processors’ access to capital for expansion projects.
“We appreciate Governor Evers’ attention to WCMA members’ ideas and concerns, and we look forward to working with him and with legislative leaders to grow dairy manufacturing and processing businesses in Wisconsin,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA Executive Director.
At the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (WDATCP), dairy licensing examinations are now offered in Spanish, as well as in English. WDATCP has also proposed the elimination of annual renewals of rBST affidavits, a change which will reduce time-consuming and duplicative paperwork for farmers and processors alike. Via WDATCP, the Evers Administration has also supported legislation to require the accurate labeling of dairy products and plant-based imitation products in Wisconsin. At the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Evers appointees have continued the issuance of multi-discharger variances and have actively pursued trades of water quality credits between farms and processors.
Hats off to the WCMA and Governor Evers on finding new and innovative ways to support the industry. For more of the latest in the dairy industry, keep reading Deli Market News.