Struggling milk producers in Wisconsin could see some relief soon at the federal level.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin is asking congress to sign off on $20 million for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives Program. The proposal would help dairy businesses add value to their products and reach new markets.
Baldwin helped secure $2 million for the program in the 2018 US farm bill. At a tour of Great Lakes Cheese in Wausau Tuesday, Baldwin said the 10-fold increase in funding she's asking for would reward Wisconsin dairy producers for new thinking.
"Our industry needs this right now. It's a difficult time for farmers and processors, we have volatile trade markets right now," said Rebekah Sweeney with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.
Over the past three years, Wisconsin has lost 1,700 dairy farms. On average, three farms in the state close their doors every day.
Baldwin believes low milk prices, oversupply of dairy and US trade wars could all played a part in that. She hopes new ideas can help Wisconsin farms survive.
"I disagree with Sunny Perdue our USDA secretary when he says you have to get big or else, I think one of our strengths is our diversity," said Baldwin. "We're not forcing this on anyone, it's a voluntary program but I can't think of many folks who aren't trying to change things up to survive."
Recently, the USDA granted Wisconsin more than $450,000 to host the new Dairy Business Innovation Alliance, which will be a Midwest hub that supports dairy entrepreneurs and helps farmers find new ways to be profitable and meet consumer demand. The hub will be led by the Center for Dairy Research at UW-Madison in partnership with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and the support of other dairy organizations.
That program would fund training and new technologies for struggling farmers.