OPINION  The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association thanks U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin-2-Madison, for securing Congressional approval of $20 million in funding for Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives in fiscal-year 2020.

We are deeply grateful for Baldwin’s leadership, both to create the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives and to fight for their funding. She has been a tireless champion for dairy farmers and dairy processors, working to stabilize and strengthen our industry.

“Wisconsin’s dairy businesses are a key driver of (Wisconsin’s) economy but recently our dairy farmers have faced very challenging times with an oversupply of milk, low milk prices and tough impacts from tariffs,” Baldwin said. “It’s critical that farmers, cheesemakers and dairy processors have tools to innovate and develop new ‘Made in Wisconsin’ dairy products to build a brighter future for our dairy farms and drive our rural economy forward.”

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Center for Dairy Research is leading one of three regional Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives centers. With initial funding of more than $450,000 approved for fiscal-year 2019, a project called the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance will soon offer reduced- or no-cost workshops designed to grow the dairy industry. It will also allocate grants directly to dairy businesses for product development and marketing. The Alliance is set to serve dairy farmers and processors in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

With targeted investments we can create and market more value-added dairy products, increasing the profitability of family farms. We’re excited to work toward that goal and deeply appreciative of the support that Baldwin has secured.

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John Umhoefer is the executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. Visit www.wischeesemakersassn.org for more information.