A new pilot program that offers expert assistance to Wisconsin dairy farmers is intended to keep producers looking to the future.

The Dairy Farm Management Team program is a joint effort of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; the Wisconsin Department of Commerce Dairy 2020 program; the University of Wisconsin-Extension Dairy Team, Risk Management Team, and Center for Dairy Profitability; and Wisconsin Technical Colleges. It will bring farmers together with teams including lenders, agronomists, nutritionists and other specialists in the varied aspects of dairy farming. Organizers hope to have 50 producers enrolled in the pilot program by the end of 2009.

"Dairy farmers across Wisconsin have reinvested nearly $1 billion in the past five years to modernize and improve the profitability of their farms," said Secretary Rod Nilsestuen of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "This program is designed to help farmers continue those efforts by providing another tool. During these tough times, it is necessary to focus on controlling things that can be done on the farm, while we also work on actions to improve milk price levels."

Department of Commerce Secretary Richard J. Leinenkugel said, "This team approach can help move Wisconsin's dairy industry forward as we work through difficult global economic conditions. Dairy producers will receive customized technical assistance so that they can identify both challenges and opportunities."

The cost-share program will provide up to $2,000 to cover such costs as consultant fees and agronomic, milk quality, or veterinary testing. Capital expenses are not eligible. Farmers will contribute 10 percent of the cost. The program will work with any herd size or set-up, anywhere in the state.

Participating producers will work with a facilitator, who will bring together a team of professionals tailored to the farm's individual situation. Over the course of three meetings, the team will identify issues and opportunities, develop a strategy, and provide input for decision-making and long-term planning. They will consider issues including technology, growth, financial success and sustainability.

Funding is available for 50 pilot teams in 2009, and applications will be accepted until funds run out. More information and application materials are available www.growwisconsindairy.org.

This program is made possible by grants to the Dairy Business Initiative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, obtained with assistance from U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and U.S. Rep. Dave Obey. In-kind contributions are provided by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; and the Department of Commerce.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection