by State Senator Terry Moulton
Wisconsin dairy is hard to beat. Literally. In fact, at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest, Wisconsin dairy beat out 2,955 competitors from 23 countries to take the contest’s top prize and 38% of all the awards. Wisconsin dairy took home a record 127 awards, 102 more than our closest competitor, California.
Every June, we celebrate Wisconsin’s dairy dominance by participating in National Dairy Month. Since 1937, we’ve joined states across the country to host dairy breakfasts, cheese festivals and events on our farms to celebrate the unique way that dairy and the dairy industry continue to shape our state and drive our economy. Wisconsin is home to 23% of all U.S. dairy farms and Wisconsin dairy contributes more than $43 billion annually to Wisconsin’s economy. That’s nearly $83,000 per minute and $20 billion more than Idaho potatoes, Florida citrus, California raisins and Washington apples combined.
Agriculture is Wisconsin’s number one industry, producing about $88 billion in economic activity, and dairy is a vital component. The dairy industry supports 413,500 Wisconsin jobs, including everything from on-farm activity to food processing, manufacturing and sales, and accounts for nearly two-thirds of our agriculture industry. The average cow generates more than $34,000 in economic activity per year.
Our state’s dairy farms generate tax revenues, support related businesses and drive Wisconsin’s position in the international marketplace by exporting high-quality dairy products. In the last five years, Wisconsin dairy exports have more than tripled. Technological and research aspects of the dairy industry are also important components of Wisconsin’s agricultural economy and we are home to many top dairy-related companies. Our state is one of the top exporters of livestock genetics and of purebred dairy cattle. In addition, our strong position in the world dairy market draws important international events like the World Championship Cheese Competition and the World Dairy Expo, which brings thousands of farmers, manufacturers, researchers and journalists to Wisconsin from around the world.
Families still own 96% of Wisconsin dairy farms and our cheesemakers and creameries are often multi-generational operations that pass their craft down to their kids and grandkids. Our part of the state is particularly blessed in this regard. Not only are we the birthplace of Colby Cheese, but a number of cheesemakers in our area took home prizes at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest, including Holland Family Cheese in Thorp, Nasonville Dairy in Marshfield, Associated Milk Producers in Jim Falls, Lynn Dairy in Granton, and Land O’ Lakes in Spencer, just to name a few.
As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, I see the vital impact this industry has on our state and area each and every day. Despite drought, recession and other setbacks, Wisconsin dairy has grown and today we have more awards, more jobs, more exports, and most importantly, more delicious Wisconsin dairy than ever before. As you’re enjoying your next glass of ice-cold Wisconsin milk, raise it up to honor the hardworking farm families and industry professionals who make our state America’s Dairyland.