The bill was unanimously approved by both houses of the legislature earlier this fall, after more than a year of convincing advocacy from WCMA members and extensive bipartisan collaboration.
Governor Evers first proposed the creation of a dairy export program in a 2020 special session and included funding for an agricultural export program in his 2021 budget proposal. Following Senator Ballweg and Representative Kurtz’s introduction of AB 314, both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature, along with the powerful Joint Finance Committee, unanimously approved the bill .
Bill 92 supports a new five-year initiative led by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to increase exports of dairy, meat, and other agricultural products by 25%. The bill specifies that $ 2.5 million, or half of the total allocated funds, will be used to increase export sales of milk, cheese, yogurt, whey and other dairy products.
Dairy groups, including the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) and the Dairy Business Association (DBA), have both applauded the move.
âThis investment is a smart and necessary boost that will benefit not only our dairy industry, but the entire state economy.WCMA Executive Director John Umhoefer said.
âWe are grateful to Governor Evers, Wisconsin State Senator Joan Ballweg and Wisconsin State Representative Tony Kurtz who are working together to make this legislation a reality.
Among the coalition of groups and individuals directly involved in passing the bill were several WCMA members, including Chr. Hansen, Nasonville Dairy, Nelson-Jameson, and Specialty Cheese Company.
âAs an experienced exporter, Chr. Hansen saw first-hand the vital role that exports play in the growth and stability of our business. This investment will help ensure a stronger dairy industry in the future in Wisconsin and the United States â,said Mike Neu, senior director of business development – cheese information for the Milwaukee-based ingredient supplier.
âExporting is an essential part of the growth of our business in the future. If we are to keep pace with the productivity of our farmers and stabilize our industry, we must find new buyers abroad. This state support will help us establish these links â,Added Kim Heiman, president of Nasonville Dairy.
“The Wisconsin Agricultural Export Initiative will help support the growth of Wisconsin’s dairy processing industry, providing greater opportunities throughout the supply chain and in our rural communities.”Said Mat Bartkowiak, director of strategic partnerships for Nelson-Jameson, Inc., a supplier to the dairy and food industries.
âWith this funding, cheese makers will have access to more tools and assistance to help them navigate the difficult logistics of exporting. As they find success in new markets, we will see short and long term benefits for dairy processors and farmers â,Said Paul Scharfman, CEO of Specialty Cheese Company.
“Much of the strength of Wisconsin’s dairy economy lies in the opportunities we have to sell more of our high-quality products around the world.”DBA President Amy Penterman said.
âThis investment will help us not only to remain competitive in the global market, but also to be a leader. We congratulate the Legislative Assembly, the Governor and the heads of the agencies for this accomplishment. It’s so encouraging to see the energy and commitment all over the place. There were a lot of moving parts that needed to be aligned.
âDBA and our members have lobbied for the program, and we are confident it will be a victory for farmers, processors and our rural communities. “
DATCP and WEDC will submit a specific plan for the program by December 31 to the Joint Finance Committee, which is slated for implementation early next year. At least 15% of funds must be used for grants.
Wisconsin exported $ 3.37 billion worth of agriculture and food products to 145 countries in 2020, according to the DATCP.