USDA said the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), both based in Madison, Wis., were chosen to host a regional Dairy Business Innovation Initiative, serving Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois. With initial funding of more than $450,000, the project will offer low- or no-cost workshops designed to grow the dairy industry and allocate grants directly to dairy businesses for product development and marketing.

“This initiative will help support farmstead or small dairy businesses as they explore opportunities to create new value-added dairy products like specialty cheeses; in addition, by providing targeted grants to dairy businesses, it will encourage more entrepreneurial efforts,” said John Lucey, CDR director.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) developed the Dairy Business Innovation Initiative program, successfully shepherding its passage through the 2018 Farm Bill. Baldwin championed the CDR/WCMA application, along with Congressmen Glen Grothman (R-WI6), Ron Kind (D-WI3), Mark Pocan (D-WI2), Bryan Steil (R-WI1) and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection Secretary Brad Pfaff.

“We’re pleased to be guiding investments in the U.S. dairy industry that can boost sales of value-added dairy products domestically and abroad, and — ultimately — increase profitability for family farmers,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA’s executive director. “We’re grateful for Sen. Baldwin’s leadership on this concept and USDA’s quick follow-though to aid the dairy industry.  And we couldn’t have a better partner than Center for Dairy Research.”

The Dairy Business Innovation Initiative is set to run through 2021. Future announcements regarding training and grant opportunities will be publicly available at and

“Wisconsin’s dairy businesses are a key driver of our state’s economy, but recently our dairy farmers have faced very challenging times with an oversupply of milk, low milk prices and tough impacts from tariffs. It’s critical that farmers, cheesemakers and dairy processors have tools to innovate and develop new 'made in Wisconsin' dairy products to build a brighter future for our dairy farms and drive our rural economy forward,” Baldwin said. “I’m proud to stand with Wisconsin’s dairy leaders, including those at the Center for Dairy Research and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, and work together to open up new resources for our dairy businesses to foster innovation, update manufacturing practices and reach new markets so Wisconsin dairy can continue to lead the nation.”