3/26/2012 9:24:00 AM Wisconsin's milk goal: 30 billion pounds by 2020
by Ron Johnson
MADISON, Wis. - Got milk? For Wisconsin, the answer is, "Yes," and there could be more of it, if Governor Scott Walker's plan is successful Walker hopes to grow Badger State milk production to 30 billion pounds annually by 2020. The effort to do that has been dubbed "30x20" and is part of the Grow Wisconsin Dairy program. Walker unveiled his proposal in Madison on March 13. He chose the twentieth annual business conference of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) for his announcement. Last year saw record milk production in America's Dairyland. Yet, Walker said there's room for more, because demand still outstrips supply. "The year 2011 saw amazing things in this industry, as both production and prices were up," said the Governor. "But I know we can do better. We need to offer tools to our producers so they have a greater opportunity to grow." Approximately 90 percent of the milk Wisconsin dairy processors need came from farms within the state's borders, Walker noted. But that means 10 percent was imported from other states. To meet the 30x20 goal, the State of Wisconsin will make new resources available for dairy farmers who want to modernize their operations or enlarge them. "Farmers who are just starting out and need a place to turn to can also request assistance from the program," Walker said. "We have just over 11,000 dairy farms in this state, made up of all different sizes. We need everyone to work together to achieve the needs of our customers, both here, at home, and abroad." Last year Wisconsin dairy farms produced 26.1 billion pounds of milk. That means a 15 percent increase will be needed to reach 30 billion pounds. True, 2011's production was a new record, Walker said. But the year-to-year growth was a mere one percent - not fast enough, Walker said. "The reality," he said, "is the growth is not fast enough for the opportunities that are here before us." The Governor noted that Wisconsin already leads the United States when it comes to making cheese. But for cheesemakers to hold that ranking and grow their businesses, "We have to make sure, now and in the future, they have the milk [they need.]" The 30x20 program came about partly because state agriculture secretary Ben Brancel got farmers, government agencies and farm groups together to discuss the problem and potential solutions. Wisconsin's budget set aside $200,000 for the effort. Walker's proposal has the blessing of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Cooperative Network, among others. Farm Bureau president, Bill Bruins, a dairyman from Waupun, Wis., said reaching the milk goal would add five billion dollars in new economic activity to the state. Meanwhile, Bill Oemichen, president of Cooperative Network, said, "This commitment to grow our industry and assist dairy farmers, regardless of size or type, will ensure a bright future for this $26.5-billion industry." Other organizations were involved in the talks leading to 30x20. They include the PDPW, the Dairy Business Association (DBA), Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wisconsin Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, GrassWorks, UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, and the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability.
No price harm seen Bob Cropp, an emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he thinks the extra milk will not drag down the prices farmers receive. "We're going to have to increase U.S. milk production something like about 15 percent, at least, to take advantage of a growing domestic and international market for that time period," Cropp said. "So we would just be maintaining our market share. So it would not have any detrimental effect on milk prices. I think it's a good idea." Besides building Wisconsin's dairying from within, Walker said the 30x20 program will recruit farmers from other states. While Wisconsin takes aim at the 30-billion-pound mark, another state has already hit and surpassed it. Last year, California dairy farms churned out 41.5 billion pounds of milk.
For more information Walker invited farmers to learn about the services and resources by telephoning toll-free 855-943-2479 (855-WIDAIRY). That same number, he said, will provide farmers with information about Grow Wisconsin Dairy grants. For information by e-mail, send inquiries to GrowWisconsinDairy.gov. The web address is GrowWisconsinDairy.wi.gov.