USDA announces $20.2M for dairy business innovation

Wisconsin State Farmer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $20.2 million in investments in dairy business innovation efforts that it says will help small dairy farms as they recover from the pandemic. 

A total of $18.4 million is being shared by three current initiatives at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the University of Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin. Also, $1.8 million is going to the California State University Fresno, the USDA announced Wednesday. 

"These awards will expand the scope of the Dairy Business Innovation program and provide much-needed support to small dairy farms and businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic," said Jenny Moffitt, the USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, in a written statement. "In addition to initiatives in the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest, a new initiative for the Pacific Coast is funded, led by California State University Fresno." 

Funds awarded to the University of Wisconsin will be used by the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA). The organization works with regional collaborators across five Midwest states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois) to provide expertise, resources and insights to support dairy business innovation.

The WCMA thanked U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, and USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack for the $6.13M investment in the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance.

John Umhoefer

“The strength of our agricultural economy, including the dairy industry, depends on strategic investments that help fund innovative projects and tailored technical assistance for producers and processors alike," said John Umhoefer, WCMA Executive Director.

Dr. John Lucey, CDR director says the program allows the organization to continue to strengthen innovation in dairy businesses within the five Midwest states that make up the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance by providing expert training, technical assistance, and grants to support diversification and creation of value-added products.

WCMA says Sen. Baldwin successfully led the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives program to passage through Congress as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Since the creation of the program, she has championed increasing investments to support the work of the DBIA in Wisconsin and across the Upper Midwest. 

“Wisconsin’s dairy businesses are a key driver of our state’s economy and with all the challenges they face I’m working to do everything I can to help,” Senator Baldwin stated. “This federal funding from USDA for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives will help Wisconsin dairy businesses grow their business, modernize their dairy plants and reach new markets. 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. I’m thankful that President Biden and Secretary Vilsack are committed partners in supporting Wisconsin’s dairy economy and rural communities.”