WCMA Recognizes 2023 Cheese Champions

Posted By: Grace Atherton WCMA News,

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) kicked off June Dairy Month by presenting its second annual Cheese Champion awards to six federal and state lawmakers for their efforts to support and advance the dairy processing industry. 


Among the awardees recognized at WCMA’s recent Annual Member Meeting was U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin). Baldwin spearheaded the successful creation and ongoing funding of the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance, a federally funded partnership administered by WCMA and the Center for Dairy Research that has provided technical assistance, education, and over $9.4 million in grants since 2018 to dairy farms and processors across the Midwest. She is also a lead author of the DAIRY PRIDE Act and CURD Act to ensure accurate food labeling, and recently introduced the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act to protect American food products from unfair trade practices in foreign countries. Baldwin has also been a strong voice for investments in rural infrastructure including roads and broadband. 


“I know how important it is that dairy farmers, manufacturers, and processors have the tools they need to respond to a changing world and changing markets, and I’m proud to be their voice in Congress,” said Sen. Baldwin. "I’m thrilled that we’ve continued to invest in programs like the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives, but I know there’s more work to be done – like passing the DAIRY PRIDE Act and CURD Act into law. I appreciate the support of our dairy manufacturers and processors, and I’m honored to stand with them and WCMA as we continue fighting to advance our state’s thriving dairy industry and protect dairy’s good name.” 


WCMA also recognized Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers for his efforts to maintain the state’s position as America’s Dairyland. Gov. Evers has worked to boost funding for the state’s Dairy Processor Grants, expand opportunities for Wisconsin dairy exports, connect dairy processors with their neighbors experiencing food insecurity, and pushed for transparency and accuracy in product labeling. Evers has also directed $340 million to rural broadband expansion, with a $750 million investment in those efforts proposed over the next decade. 


“For a kid from Plymouth, who's also been a big fan of Wisconsin cheese and our dairy industry all my life, I'm darn proud to be the governor of America’s Dairyland and to receive this award,” said Gov. Evers. “I’ve also been proud to support our dairy industry over the past four years with increased investments in our Dairy Processor Grant Program, support for farmers during tough times through our Wisconsin Farm Support Program, and our work to increase the value of Wisconsin’s dairy exports by 2026. The dairy processing industry is part of our state’s past and present, and you can be sure that I remain committed to being a partner to ensure that it remains a central part of our state’s economic future.” 


WCMA further commended four state lawmakers for their strong support for the dairy processing industry: Senator Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan), Representative Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc), Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), and Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City). 


As members of the Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Ballweg and Rep. Kurtz have led the charge for continued funding of the $5 million Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports, which helped boost the state’s dairy exports by 37 percent in its first year alone. Both Ballweg and Kurtz also worked with their colleagues on Joint Finance to boost available Dairy Processor Grant dollars to $1 million over the upcoming biennium. 


“The agriculture industry is vital to the economic health of the state of Wisconsin. I enjoy working on legislation that helps the second largest economic driver in the state, and will continue to do so as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Tourism,” said Sen. Ballweg. “I love Wisconsin cheese and I am honored to have been presented with the Cheese Champion Award from the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association for two consecutive years.” 


“Thanks go to the cheesemakers for their recognition of my work in the Legislature, and for the great work they do every day.  We partner to support economic growth and greater opportunity in our rural communities and all across Wisconsin.  This June Dairy Month, you can be sure I’ll be celebrating with fresh curds!” said Rep. Kurtz. 


As co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Marklein, who represents more dairy processors than any other lawmaker in the state, plays a critical role in the continued success of the Dairy Innovation Hub, harnessing cutting-edge dairy research at three University of Wisconsin campuses. He has authored legislation to require that all products being sold as milk or cheese be made from real dairy, and led efforts to expand rural broadband access. Sen. Marklein is a lead author of the Agricultural Road Improvement Program (ARIP), a bill devoting $150 million to fix aging roads in Wisconsin’s rural communities. 


“I am honored to again be named a Cheese Champion by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, and to represent so many of our state’s award-winning dairy processors,” said Sen. Marklein. “Partnering together, and targeting state and industry investments in research, innovation, and new export endeavors, we will continue to grow Wisconsin’s signature industry and create stronger rural economies.” 


Joining Sen. Marklein in leading the charge on rural road improvements through ARIP is the bill’s lead co-author Rep. Tranel, a dairy farmer who also serves as Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. 


“I truly appreciate that the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association has recognized me as a legislative leader for my contributions to the State of Wisconsin. I have worked hard on behalf of farm families and the ag industry for the past 13 years, and I look forward to continuing to partner with cheesemakers to make the dairy industry stronger for everyone,” said Rep. Tranel. 


WCMA serves as a strong voice for dairy processors, manufacturers, marketers, and industry suppliers on legislative and regulatory activity at the state and federal levels. More information on the Association’s advocacy efforts is available at WisCheeseMakers.org