Leaders in Wisconsin dairy industry worry the U.S. is falling behind

When coronavirus crept into the United States last spring, the dairy industry saw immediate effects. Wisconsin producers were hit the pandemic and the trade war at the same time.

Each week, one day’s worth of U.S. milk production heads overseas for export markets. National Milk Producers Federation CEO Jim Mulhern says that when global markets rise and fall, dairy follows the trend.

“I think we’re seen just how interconnected our global community is,” he said. “Keeping food supply chain strong and dairy exports moving has never been more important.”

However, there are growing gaps in the overseas markets.

“The fact is, from a trade policy standpoint, we’re actually falling behind our competitors, particularly the European Union,” Mulhern said.

According to Jeff Schwager, the president of Sartori Cheese, the EU is way ahead of the U.S. in getting bilateral agreements in place.

If this were to change, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin CEO Chad Vincent says that the Badger State would have an advantage.

“Ninety percent of milk in the state gets turned into cheese and 90 percent of that cheese goes outside the state,” he said. “As we look to export more valued products, we are in the catbird seat with our product mix of world class cheese and world class cheese processors.”

However, uncertainty on the trade front leaves some with cold feet and may lead to more dairy farmers going out of business. The solution could lie at the ballot box, very few elected Wisconsin officials have an ag background, this was not these case 15-30 years ago.