Wisconsin's Dairy 30x20 Initiative aims to achieve a lofty goal – boosting milk production to 30 billion pounds annually by 2020 to meet the demands of the state's cheesemakers and milk processors – but the grant program isn't just about expanding herds.
Ben Brancel, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, explains that the goal is to make farms more profitable so they survive.
"We wanted the farmers to decide what size they wanted to be, what type of farm they want to operate," he told the Associated Press. "If they wanted to be big, so be it. If they wanted to be smaller and maybe a specialized farm, that was all well and good. If they were interested in grazing and weren't sure how to get into it, if they were thinking they might like to incorporate a product like robotic milkers to create efficiencies on the farm . . . that was fine as well."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker unveiled the ambitious plan in March 2012. See his announcement here.
The program provides about $200,000 per year in grants to help farmers with business planning, engineering, animal nutrition and other issues. It cannot be used to pay off debt or to make land or big equipment purchases.
Both large and small dairies have received grants, and most used the grants to help with business development. Others needed guidance with estate planning.