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Sen. Baldwin visits Center for Dairy Research

Sen. Baldwin visits Madison to learn how the UW is supporting new dairy businesses

Sen. Tammy Baldwin tries her hand at stirring curds under the director of Jocelyn York, a student studying biological systems engineering and a cheese and dairy research assistant, at the Center for Dairy Research. Photo by Jeff Miller.

Senator Tammy Baldwin visited the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The purpose of her visit was to observe how the center is leading the Midwest Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA). This program provides support to new and expanding dairy businesses across the region and originated from funding in the 2018 federal Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, enacted December 20, 2018, provides stability and support to the nation’s farmers by improving crop insurance, disaster programs and promoting voluntary conservation.

The DBIA collaborates with the CDR and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA). Together, they offered technical assistance to dairy farmers, aiming to enhance the profitability of their operations. To date, the program has granted 175 awards, with over 75 grants specifically benefiting Wisconsin businesses. Federal funding has contributed to on-farm environmental sustainability, expanded exports, new product development, and increased access to retail markets.

During the visit, CDR Director John Lucey, a professor in the Department of Food Science, highlighted that half of the grants awarded in Wisconsin have supported farmstead businesses. These are dairy farms that have diversified by producing specialty butter, ice cream, or cheese directly on their farms.

In the original legislations, sponsored by Senator Baldwin, aims to address the decline of dairy farms in Wisconsin by increasing the number of enterprises operated on the farm.

The DBIA projects have an estimated value of $120 million, and the program continues to enhance consulting and business planning assistance for grantees through CDR experts and industry professionals.

In the federal spending package for fiscal year 2024, the Dairy Business Innovation Initiative received $12 million to provide ongoing support not only to Wisconsin but also to the other three regional programs in Vermont, Tennessee, and California.