Groups cheer USDA's commitment to supporting dairy industry

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and the Center for Dairy Research applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) direction of $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies to supplement the work of the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance.

Wisconsin groups cheered the USDA's announcement to channel $20 in American Rescue Act monies into boosting the work of the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA).

Speaking at WCMA member Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Waterloo, WI on Monday, USDA officials added they will also make $22.9 million in agency appropriations available to DBIA and three other innovation centers operating nationwide in Fiscal Year 2022.

“The Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives have proven to be an invaluable resource for dairy farmers and businesses because of their ability to provide targeted resources and funding through subawards at the local and regional level, maximizing impact," said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. "As we celebrate National Dairy Month this June, USDA continues to look for ways to support America’s dairy industry, especially amidst ongoing supply chain and food system challenges."

Moffitt says additional funding will allow the each DBI to significantly increase its resources, enabling it to continue facilitating the development of critical relationships with local dairy producers and processors to support their on-the-ground needs.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, who has championed the Dairy Business Innovation initiatives, joined Moffitt at the Monday event, saying, ““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. This federal funding from USDA will help Wisconsin dairy businesses modernize, reach new markets, and create economic growth."

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt, left, is joined by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and George Crave at Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Waterloo, Wis., on Monday.

The Wisconsin senator says the DBI initiatives provide farmers, cheesemakers, and dairy processors with the tools they need to innovate and develop new Made in Wisconsin dairy products.

The additional $20 million in DBIA funding will support an expansion of the program’s service area to include Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio. Currently, the program covers Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. 

Dairy businesses in broadened service area will also see a boost in direct-to-business grant funding available through DBIA. Successful grant applicants for the Dairy Business Builder grant will now be eligible to receive up to $100,000 each to support business-boosting projects. The Dairy Industry Impact grant will offer up to $500,000 per award to fund innovative projects with a broad impact.

ARPA funds will also be used to launch new dairy research projects focused on the creation of value-added products at the newly renovated Center for Dairy Research, and to support an innovative mentorship program engaging long-time dairy business leaders and cheesemakers to support entrepreneurship in the industry.

“We are thrilled to build on the impact of the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance, strengthening dairy farms and processors and rural communities,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA Executive Director. 

Center for Dairy Research director John Lucey said the critical investment in dairy innovation "allows us to expand our DBIA grants and support programs to 11 Midwest states that produce over a third of all U.S. milk production.”

“This funding also provides key investments in critical research and emerging opportunities, such as biofermentation of dairy residues," Lucey added.

Since its inception, DBIA has administered over $3.7 million in 79 grants to dairy farms and businesses, conducted market research and product development projects, and delivered direct technical assistance to Midwestern dairy farmers and processors.