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Editorial: Dairy initiative attainable goal

Establishing goals is a good idea whenever there's a desire to get ahead.

June Dairy Month is the perfect time for anyone interested in Wisconsin regaining its title as the leading dairy state to recognize Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30x20. This resource is being offered to dairy farmers here and is an important step toward returning America's Dairyland's number one ranking, lost several years ago to California.

The West Coast state has got a lot going for it, dairy-wise. Its dairy producers don't have to contend with winters as harsh as those normally occurring in Badgerland. Its dairy industry is based more on the larger factory farms than small family farms, so production's on a huge scale, not reliant on many individual contributors. And its promoters have become aggressive in advertising nationally, trumpeting the California brand.

Help counter all of that with the initiative, which is not only a valid measure for dairy growth in Wisconsin, but an attainable one. The state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Ben Brancel has outlined details of Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30x20 and how farmers can take advantage of it.

Its goal is simple: achieve an annual milk production of 30 billion pounds by 2020 to meet the growing demand of the marketplace and improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin's dairy industry. It's an industry that's what it is today because of dedicated dairy farmers statewide.

Collectively, a milk production record was set last year, but barely. Milk production grew less than one percent in 2011 to 26.1 billion pounds. Good, but not good enough to keep pace with the demands of the state's growing processing industry and customers around the world.

Dairy farmers in Wisconsin produce approximately 90 percent of the milk volume needed by the state's dairy processors. It should be 100 percent.

Through Dairy 30x20, DATCP pledges to assist state dairy farmers, regardless of size or type, by focusing on long-term, sustained operations. No other state offers the concentration of dairy resources and support network available here. Wisconsin's dairy infrastructure is a leader in offering highly-developed and specialized expertise.

DATCP's job is to connect farmers with resources and services. When they get in touch with Dairy 30x20 experts by calling 855-WIDAIRY or emailing,

they're asked to describe their operation, and the type of services required to increase productivity and profitability. Depending on those requirements, dairy farmers can be directed to the best sources of support for assistance with such concerns as transition planning, herd health or financial planning.

There are tax credits for farm modernization and farmers just getting started. A grant program to increase productivity is in the works. Just as each farm is different, each response is different.

Dairy 30x20 is a public-private effort growing out of discussions between DATCP staff and dairy industry leaders statewide. When the former Dairy 2020 program transferred to DATCP from the disbanded Wisconsin Department of Commerce, it was agreed changes needed to be made to ensure a strong future for the state's dairy industry.

The results were clear. Milk is needed and more of it. To produce that milk, services must be provided to the state's farmers.

Economically, dairy means more to Wisconsin than citrus does to Florida, potatoes to Idaho, apples to Washington or lobster to Maine. The dairy industry has a $26.5 billion impact on Wisconsin's economy and employs more than 146,000 people in the state. Wisconsin is home to over 11,000 licensed dairy herds and each is needed to be productive and profitable if the Dairy 30x20 goal set by the industry's leaders is to be met.