Legislation Proposed to Spark Innovation in Dairy Processing

A bill proposed by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) has praise from across the dairy industry as a way to help revolutionize milk processing and address milk oversupplies. ( Oregon State University )

The Dairy Business Innovation Act was proposed by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) as a way to promote innovation in dairy processing while provide technical assistance and grants to dairy businesses.

The legislation was announced on June 21 and establishes regional initiatives that have the goal of revolutionizing dairy processing. The hope of the bill is to create more value for dairy farmers’ milk by addressing the current milk oversupply with innovations in processing.

“It’s critical that farmers, cheesemakers and dairy processors have tools to innovate and develop new dairy products to build a brighter future for our dairy farms and drive our rural economy forward,” says Baldwin. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to create new initiatives and expand resources for our dairy businesses to foster innovation, improve their manufacturing practices and reach new markets.”

The regional initiatives created by the legislation would work specifically in the following ways:

  • Supporting new and expanding dairy businesses—Initiatives would provide assistance with business plan development, accounting, market evaluation, and strategic planning.
  • Promoting innovation in dairy products—Dairy businesses could get assistance with product innovation, marketing and branding, packaging, distribution, supply chain innovation, food safety training and consultation, dairy product production training.
  • Assisting with dairy plant modernization and process improvement—Dairy businesses could get assistance with processing facility improvement, including assistance with plant upgrades, food safety modernization, energy and water efficiency, byproduct reprocessing and use maximization, and waste treatment.

Funding would be eligible to prospective and established processors who make products from dairy animals. The funding would be eligible to farms with processing facilities, too.  

The Dairy Business Innovation Act has support from a number of dairy farm organizations and processing associations, including the International Dairy Foods Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute, National Milk Producers Federation, Midwest Dairy Coalition, Associated Milk Producers, Inc., Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, and First District Association. 

Here is what members of the industry are saying regarding the bill:

  • “In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, the U.S. dairy industry must work hard to maintain its position on the leading edge of product development and marketing. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Dairy Business Innovation Act would target federal support for cheesemakers and other dairy manufacturers and processors in ways designed and proven to increase sales both domestically and abroad,” says John Umhoefer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.
  • “These are tough times for dairy farmers in the Upper Midwest and across the country. The Midwest Dairy Coalition greatly appreciates Senator Baldwin’s many efforts to address the needs of dairy farmers in the short term and the long term. The Dairy Business Innovation Act will help the dairy industry diversify to expand market opportunities for dairy farmers, and will provide assistance directly to farmers in their efforts to make on-farm improvements to meet new market opportunities as well,” says Steven Etka, Coordinator of the Midwest Dairy Coalition.
  • “We appreciate Senator Baldwin’s continued efforts on behalf of dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own, in Wisconsin and throughout the country. This legislation could provide important new opportunities for dairy sector innovation in today’s economy,” says Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.
  • “We are delighted to support the Dairy Business Innovation Act. This legislation will promote innovation in the dairy sector and help industry members work together to address common challenges,” says Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association.
  • “The dairy farmer-owners of AMPI thank Sen. Baldwin for her continued support of the nation’s dairy industry. She understands the important role dairy farmers have long played in our nation’s economy, producing nutritious food and generating jobs. This bill would provide welcome support as we look to the future, identifying new opportunities and responding to consumers’ growing interest in how their food is produced,” says Steve Schlangen, dairy farmer from Albany, Minn., and AMPI Chairman of the Board.
  • “The number of dairy farms in the United States has declined by nearly 98% since 1950,” says Nora Weiser, Executive Director of the American Cheese Society. “ACS values the hard work of cheesemakers, and recognizes that artisan and specialty cheeses are an important economic driver supporting struggling dairy farms in rural communities across the United States. These products can play a critical role in keeping American dairy farmers in business, and these producers need support in order to innovate and thrive.”

The full Dairy Business Innovation Act is available here.