Now is a good time to celebrate with Wisconsin’s farm families

Joe Leibham • 9th Senatorial District

As a citizen and legislator, I am always excited for the month of June. Besides the start of summer, it is also Dairy Month throughout our state. Over the past couple of weekends, I had the honor of attending and volunteering at the Manitowoc County Breakfast on the Farm at the D&D Jersey farm in Newton, the Sheboygan County Breakfast at the Jensema Farm in Sheboygan Falls as well as breakfasts in Winnebago, Marquette, Dodge and Green Lake Counties. These events offer a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about agriculture in the 21st century and have some fun on the farm.

The dairy industry is a powerful part of our economy and a major employer. Wisconsin is home to nearly 10,000 dairy farms, 400 dairy plants, and more than one million dairy cows. Dairy production is by far the largest agricultural sector in the state, generating $26.5 billion annually for Wisconsin’s economy. Last year, Wisconsin produced 2.86 billion pounds of cheese, includ- ing specialty varieties produced nowhere else in the nation.

Since cheese making is such a huge part of our economy and tradition as a state, I was concerned about the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to cite cheese makers for the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards, calling the process “unsanitary”. According to John Umhoefer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, a minimum of 20 million pounds of cheese rests on wooden boards in Wisconsin.

Statewide traditions and practices that have been utilized by cheese makers for centuries were called into question by a bureaucratic arm of the FDA prompted by nothing more than a question from a single person. There have been no cases of illness or contamination that prompted this decision and I am disturbed by the knee-jerk, regulatory response that came out of Washington, DC. The implications and impact of a decision like this would be devastating to our state’s cheese industry.

Thankfully due to the uproar created by concerned citizens and the cheese industry the FDA seems to be backing down from their original position. However it’s important to note that their actions show the grave disconnect between Washington and Wisconsin. Let the FDA ruling serve as a reminder as to how government overregulation and intrusion can severely disrupt our industries and economic growth. I will continue to monitor this decision, and actions like this, to protect the integrity of Wisconsin industries and economies.

During my time in the state legislature I have been committed to supporting the stability and growth of the Wisconsin dairy and agriculture industries. As you make your weekend plans this month, I would encourage you to attend one, or more, of the Dairy Month events to learn more about modern agriculture in our state. Consider visiting one of our state’s dairy farmers for breakfast, a sundae and some exploration. There are always interesting activities for children and adults, animals to meet and hearty meals to enjoy. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has a helpful website which highlights all of the festivities associated with June Dairy Month:

In the 9th Senate District, there are several Dairy events taking place yet this month:

1860s Dairy Day June 28, 10 am - 5 pm Wade House

W7965 State Hwy 23 Greenbush,

Calumet County Sunday on the Farm June 29, 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM Grand View Dairy Farm, Inc. N9339 Brant-St.John Road Brillion.

A special thank you to the families, staffs and volunteers that allow for these special visits to area farms. My family and I enjoy attending these events to develop a better understanding of where our food and beverages come from and to celebrate the great tradition and future of dairy in our state

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