The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) cheered U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack’s direction of $80 million in American Rescue Plan funds to Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives (DBII) first championed by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) in the 2018 Farm Bill. Four regional DBII programs, including the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance led by WCMA and the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be eligible to apply for up to $20 million in 2022.
“This is a historic investment in dairy businesses, and so vital at a time of trade volatility, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions challenging dairy farm and dairy processor businesses,” says John Umhoefer, WCMA Executive Director. “It demonstrates the firm commitment of the Biden Administration, Secretary Vilsack, and Senator Baldwin to stabilize and strengthen the U.S. dairy industry in ways that will enable us to meet the demands of a growing international marketplace.”
“The dollars directed to the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance are making a significant impact in our region, and this extraordinary investment in innovation will lead to new products and businesses, elevating the U.S. dairy industry globally,” Dr. John Lucey, CDR Director says. “As the new, state-of-the-art Center for Dairy Research facility opens and we implement more DBIA programs, I strongly believe that the U.S. dairy industry, with its nutritious, high-quality products, will be well-positioned to compete.”
Since 2019, the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance has served dairy businesses in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, working to increase on-farm diversification, support the creation of new value-added dairy products, including specialty cheeses, and expand dairy export endeavors.
With total funding of $12.7 million to date, the Alliance of WCMA and Center for Dairy Research has delivered educational resources, direct consulting assistance, market research, product development and more than $6.8 million in direct-to-business grants. Grant projects vary in size and scope, with success stories including, among others:
A seventh-generation dairy farmer launching a butter-making operation to create new revenue streams to maintain the family business;
A cheesemaker developing innovative wastewater technologies that improve profitability and preserve natural resources;
A dairy processor developing a shelf-stable dairy product to diversify its value-added offerings for export markets, connecting with consumers in China; and
The development of a consortium of specialty cheesemakers, banding together to brand and ship their products to Middle Eastern markets.
“This added investment in DBII will support the creation of higher-wage, family-supporting jobs and help strengthen rural communities,” says Umhoefer. “We are grateful for the opportunity to expand the impact of the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance, and for Sen. Baldwin’s leadership to create and sustain our program.”