WCMA Outlines State Policy Priorities

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association unveiled a robust legislative platform for 2023.

In visits with elected and appointed leaders, WCMA members called for increased investment in state programs to boost dairy exports and spur dairy business development, action to ensure food labeling accuracy, updated transportation regulations, continued expansion of high-speed broadband internet access and other key workforce supports, among other items. 

“As the Wisconsin Legislature enters a new session, now is the time for policymakers to champion investments and policies that sustain and grow the state’s signature industry,” says WCMA Executive Director John Umhoefer. “We’re grateful for the widespread bipartisan support legislators have expressed for the issues that matter most to dairy manufacturers, and we look forward to seeing swift action in the coming biennium.” 

At the State Capitol, members met with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both houses to urge support for 10 key state budget provisions and policy items: 

· DAIRY PROCESSOR GRANTS: WCMA supports an expansion of the Dairy Processor Grant program at DATCP to a total annual allocation of up to $1 million per year. Funding will alleviate labor shortfalls by supporting increased automation and generate growth for artisan cheesemakers.

· WISCONSIN INITIATIVE FOR AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS: WCMA members support increased investment in the state’s export endeavors via the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports. WCMA proposes an investment of $2 million per fiscal year to boost this impactful program, or $4 million over the 2023-2025 biennium. 

· DAIRY INNOVATION HUB: WCMA members urge elected leaders to maintain the state’s $7.8 million per year investment in the Dairy Innovation Hub. Since its launch in 2019, the Hub has funded more than 130 impactful projects and 15 critical faculty positions across the three campuses. 

· DATCP FUNDING & KEY POSITIONS: WCMA members ask the Evers administration and state lawmakers to again support the reclassification of critical positions, and increased funding for the agency overall. 

· FOOD SECURITY INITIATIVE: WCMA members support continued investment in the Food Security Initiative, which has successfully met needs of food-insecure Wisconsin households and boosted Wisconsin food processors during periods of continued marketplace volatility. 

· WORKFORCE SUPPORT: WCMA members champion programs supported by state dollars to provide affordable housing, childcare and eldercare, and workforce training, particularly in rural communities. 

· BROADBAND EXPANSION: WCMA members support investments to expand high-speed internet access to all Wisconsinites, enhancing quality of life and economic competitiveness, particularly in the rural communities in which many dairy processors operate. 

· OVERWEIGHT PERMITS: The state allows haulers a maximum gross vehicle weight of 98,000 pounds when transporting fluid milk products, including milk, milk drinks, eggnog, and buttermilk, but not liquid whey.  This means that, when whey is transported, larger tanker trucks are currently moving at reduced capacity. WCMA members seek the ability to apply the same conditions governing the transportation of fluid milk products in Wisconsin to the transportation of other liquid milk byproducts, including whole whey, reverse osmosis whey, liquid whey protein, and liquid whey permeate. This change would alleviate challenges related to the current truck driver shortage and would help to support greater energy efficiency through reduced demand for diesel fuel. 

· ACCURATE DAIRY LABELING: WCMA members continue to urge state action to ban the labeling of foods as dairy products or dairy ingredients if the food is not made from the milk of a cow, sheep, goat, or camelid mammal. The same guidelines should also apply to products labeled as milk.

· RAW MILK SALES: WCMA members strongly oppose any effort to change the state’s current prohibition on regular sales of raw milk, which can contain disease-causing bacteria that the pasteurization process is designed to kill.