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Task Force Meets To Discuss Protecting, Promoting Wisconsin’s Dairy Industry

Group Heard 51 Proposals To Help Farms And Processors Survive

dairy cows in the barn
Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

A 31-member dairy task force met Friday to float ideas on protecting and promoting the work farmers and processors do. The meeting comes as the industry struggles with low prices.

Task force members heard 51 motions on issues like rural broadband, milk quality standards and financing with the goal of keeping the industry viable.

Dairy Task Force 2.0 Chairman Mark Stephenson, who is the director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said some of the motions could be adopted by individual farmers or processors like cheese makers or by state regulators.

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Stephenson said other recommendations would need to be more broad.

“Frankly, some of these recommendations go forward that really couldn’t be effectively implemented except at the national level and it’s more a way of the state being able to say, ‘We support a recommendation like this being done at the national level.’”

The last dairy task force met in 1985, and a lot of things have changed in the business since then, Stephenson said.

Commodity prices are down, and more than 600 dairy farms closed in 2018, according to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Members presented recommendations from a network of subcommittees.

DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff attending the meeting.

“It’s not easy out on the farm right now. Farmers are facing tremendous financial, as well as emotional stress.” Pfaff said. “And so the recommendations this group is hearing (are) very important. It’s very important in the short term and it’s very important in the long term.”

Some of the task force’s recommendations would need state or federal approval. Individual dairy operators or processors, such as cheese makers, could adopt others.