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Sen. Baldwin visits Center for Dairy Research to learn how UW is supporting new dairy businesses

April 5, 2024 By Heidi Zoerb
Two women stand by a vat of yellow liquid, and one stirs it with a paddle.

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

On April 2, Sen. Tammy Baldwin visited the Center for Dairy Research in the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to see how the center is leading the Midwest Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA). The program, which supports new and expanding dairy businesses throughout the region, started with funding in the 2018 federal Farm Bill.

With Dairy Business Innovation Alliance funding, the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) partners with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association to offer technical assistance to dairy farmers and processors looking to improve the profitability of their operations. So far, the program has awarded 175 grants, including more than 75 to Wisconsin businesses. Federal funding for the program has improved on-farm environmental sustainability, expanded exports, developed new products and increased access to retail markets.

During the visit, CDR Director John Lucey, a professor in the Department of Food Science, noted that half of the grants awarded in Wisconsin have gone to farmstead businesses — dairy farms that have expanded into making products like specialty butter, ice cream or cheese on their farm.

The original legislation, sponsored by Senator Baldwin, aims to increase on-farm diversification during a period when Wisconsin continues to lose dairy farms, and to create new, value-added dairy products and expand export markets.

So far, the DBIA projects are valued at more than $120 million and the program continues to expand the consulting and business planning assistance available to grantees through CDR experts and industry professionals.

In the latest federal spending package for fiscal year 2024, the national Dairy Business Innovation Initiative received $12 million to provide ongoing support to Wisconsin and the other three regional programs in Vermont, Tennessee and California.