WCMA Supports Special Session Call, Bills to Boost Dairy

Posted By: Rebekah Sweeney Advocacy, WCMA News,

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) supports Governor Tony Evers’ call for a Special Session of the Legislature to boost the state’s dairy industry, challenged by trade instability, poor weather conditions, a severe labor shortage, and a decline in milk consumption.

“Urgent action is needed to stabilize and strengthen Wisconsin’s backbone industry,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA Executive Director.  “We call on lawmakers to move quickly to provide relief to dairy farmers who need it most, and to support cheesemakers’ work to develop value-added dairy products and reach new, global customers.”

Executive Order 64, issued earlier today, calls on the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly to consider the following proposals viewed as key by WCMA members:

  • LRB 5420/LRB 5439, increasing state funding by $1 million for the impactful Dairy Processor grant program, sparking innovation and modernization in dairy plants and the creation of new specialty cheeses;
  • LRB 5414/LRB 5434; developing the Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports, providing $1 million to support agency partnership with the dairy industry to increase U.S. dairy exports to 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply by 2024; and
  • LRB 5412/LRB 5432, promoting the production of high-value dairy products, including organic farming and grazing programs.

We are very pleased to see the support for the rural Wisconsin communities with the focus on dairy and farming in the State of the State message,” said Jeff Schwager, President of Sartori Cheese in Plymouth.  “The drive to increase in dairy exports to 20 percent is a catalyst for Wisconsin.  For us to achieve this goal, cheese will be leading the way and the assistance from the state will be key for our farm families.”

“We strongly support proposals that invest in dairy processing and dairy market export efforts along with value-added provisions that, for example, elevate grazing and organic agriculture options for farmers,” said Adam Warthesen, Director of Government and Industry Affairs for Organic Valley, based in La Farge.  “This package of agriculture bills and the intentional focus on rural prosperity is just what we need in Wisconsin – it’s an investment worth making.”

“Demand for value-added organic dairy products continues to grow, but most farmers don’t have the capital to expand or convert their operations,” said Bob Wills, owner of Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain and Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee.  “Targeted investments in organic dairying would boost farm profitability in Wisconsin and help to secure our status as a leader in this field.”

“We are happy to see proposed measures aimed at assisting farms and smaller agricultural processors," said Paul Witke, co-owner of Zimmerman Cheese in South Wayne.  "Governor Evers' rural development initiatives highlight a growing concern amongst agricultural businesses located in rural communities.  We are hopeful that the Office of Rural Prosperity will aggregate programs and offerings so smaller businesses can easily work with rural development officials.”      

“Rural Wisconsin has competitive advantages.  Its milk is the best. Its cheese is the best. The people who live here make both of those possible.  I am pleased the Governor sees the opportunity for the state to invest in our rural communities and their dairy opportunities,” said Paul Scharfman, President of Specialty Cheese Company in Reeseville.

“The Governor has been listening to cheesemakers like me, and my farmer partners in industry, and it’s encouraging to see those conversations lead to action.  We welcome the opportunity to work together to build up rural communities and strengthen Wisconsin’s dairy industry now and for generations to come,” said Steve Bechel, Vice President of Operations at Eau Galle Cheese in Durand.


Note: Since 1891, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association has served as the voice of cheese and dairy manufacturers, processors, and marketers. Today, WCMA represents more than 100 dairy processing companies and cooperatives operating across the United States and around the world, and more than 575 companies that supply equipment and services to the industry.