Governor Jim Doyle announced Thursday that Wisconsin cheese production set a new record in 2006, producing nearly 2.5 billion pounds of cheese, accounting for 26 percent of the national cheese market. Wisconsin's growth is fueled by the increase in national demand for high-quality, specialty cheeses, and Wisconsin's powerful dairy sector. Specialty cheese production in Wisconsin grew by 26 million pounds, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the national specialty cheese market.
"Agriculture is the backbone of our state economy," Governor Doyle says. "Everyone knows where the best cheese comes from. Our dairy industry and farm families are world famous for producing the best cheese – filling a national demand and keeping our economy strong."
"We see no end in sight for continued steady growth in Wisconsin's cheese sector," says Rod Nilsestuen, secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, who was attending World Dairy Expo in Madison on Thursday. "Wisconsin has led the nation in cheese production since overtaking New York in 1910."
By providing financial incentives to help dairy farms across the state modernize their operations, Governor Doyle is leading the effort to grow the state's $20.6 billion dairy industry. Since 2004, Wisconsin's dairy processors have invested an estimated $500 million to modernize, opened 23 new dairy plants, and expanded 45 more. At least six additional specialty dairy plants are set to open in the next year.
Today, more than 80 of the state's 115 cheese plants make at least one type of specialty cheese, helping the specialty cheese sector account for 16 percent of the state's total cheese production.
• Wisconsin's 14,000 family dairy farms have invested approximately $1 billion to modernize in the past five years, and report plans to invest more than $1 billion in the next five years. Milk production has increased by nearly two billion pounds or nearly 9 percent between 2004 and 2007.
• Wisconsin's 1,200 licensed cheese makers craft more than 600 varieties of cheese, more than any other state or nation, and win more championship cheese awards than any other state. In 2007, Wisconsin brought home 60 percent of the best of class awards in the United States Cheese Championship.
• Wisconsin dairy exports hit a record pace in the first half of 2007, cashing in on world demand for whey, a by-product of cheese production.
• Wisconsin boasts more organic dairy farms than any other state and they produce more organic milk than any other state.
In addition, the federally funded Value Added Dairy Initiative has created the Dairy Business Innovation Center to provide technical assistance and marketing expertise to dairy farmers and dairy plants moving into higher value, more profitable dairy enterprises.