Wisconsin’s declining dairy industry can be saved.
That’s according to the members of the Dairy Task Force, which gathered Thursday at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for its second meeting.
Gov. Scott Walker’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection formed the group earlier this year and dubbed it the 2.0 task force; it comes 33 years after the state’s first task force developed a plan to combat declining dairy production in the 1980s.
Now, the group is trying to figure out how to save dairy farmers, cheese producers and more amid hundreds of farm closures, stagnating prices and an overabundance of milk.
Nine subcommittees presented their findings at the meeting, and two brought forward proposals to boost farmers and stimulate innovation in the industry. On a vote, both proposals passed.
The first proposal would create a new loan guarantee program to ensure farmers and dairy producers can take out loans without fear of financial ruin. The program would draw on existing agricultural loan programs that guarantee set dollar amounts or percentages through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development, or WHEDA.
Some proposed changes include bumping the percentage WHEDA and the lending institutions guarantee from 50 to 90 percent and increasing the pool of money available in case a dairy producer defaults on loans (proponents say the rate of default on guaranteed loans is low).
A farmer in the audience raised concerns that the loans would further promote mega-dairies’ growth and hurt smaller family farms. Some on the task force also worried that farmers who received the guaranteed loans, full of extra confidence and cash, would buy more cows and ramp up production — further exacerbating the oversupply of milk.
Source: The North Western