Wisconsin's agriculture secretary says the national decline in milk consumption is not hurting Wisconsin's dairy industry the way it would have years ago.
The latest numbers from the U-S Department of Agriculture show milk sales have fallen their lowest level since 1984. Experts cite decisions by consumers to drink other products, like bottled water, sports drinks, and soft drinks.
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel says he hopes a marketing push by the industry will get people to drink more milk. But, speaking after touring a dairy equipment manufacturer in Madison, Brancel said cheese is more critical to Wisconsin's economy.
"Ninety-percent of our milk goes into cheese production," he says. "And so that's the really important part for us is cheese consumption, and that continually goes up. Milk consumption itself--direct milk sales and consumption--have been reducing over time. It's not like this is all of a sudden the single moment in time when it's been so low."
Brancel says there was a time when a decline in milk consumption would have hurt Wisconsin more. But ever since the 1900s, he says Wisconsin's researcher institutions and its economy have been focused on producing and marketing cheese.