Representative Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, and I officially introduced Senate Bill 186, the Dairy Innovation Hub bill this week. This bill is also co-sponsored by Representative Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc, and Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville.
Wisconsin has long been known as a dairy superpower worldwide. We have always been on the cutting edge of dairy innovation, research and technology. We have been proud of this distinction.
Unfortunately, the dairy industry and agriculture is in crisis. Declining milk prices and financial hardship are a constant worry for our farmers. As a result, we are often asked to “do something” about the ag-industry crisis! I believe the Dairy Innovation Hub bill has real potential to answer this call.
This bill allocates $7.9 million to create a Dairy Innovation Hub at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls to re-prioritize and restore focus on dairy innovation in Wisconsin. UW-Madison will receive 52 percent of the money, while UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls will each receive 24 percent. This investment represents less than 0.02 percent of Wisconsin’s dairy economy.
This Dairy Innovation Hub idea is a direct result of the hard work of the Dairy Task Force 2.0, which was revived by Gov. Scott Walker in June 2018 to maintain a viable and profitable dairy industry in Wisconsin. Task Force membership includes farmers, milk processors and marketers, allied organizations, legislators and university leadership. This bill is the top recommendation of this task force so far. More ideas and initiatives will be coming in the future.
The goal of this investment is to attract and support world-class researchers to lead focused research in four sectors: 1. Steward land and water resources. 2. Enrich human health and nutrition. 3. Ensure animal health and welfare. 4. Grow farm businesses and communities.
It is important to point out that the Dairy Innovation Hub is NOT about increasing production. We are already really good at this. Instead, we will be dedicating the same caliber of effort, research and innovation we have given to production to new priorities.
Dairy Innovation Hub research will:
- Address water quality issues.
- Develop new and unique dairy products.
- Examine new, non-food uses for dairy products.
- Apply dairy research to real-life issues.
- Open new markets for Wisconsin dairy products.
- Actively deploy research discoveries to the dairy industry.
Each campus will be given flexibility to use the funding in its own way to achieve the goals of the Dairy Innovation Hub. This can include hiring faculty and staff researchers, empowering students to conduct research and providing support for research facilities and infrastructure.
Last week the Joint Finance Committee concluded its public hearings on the state budget. At every public meeting held around the state, we heard requests to include the Dairy Innovation Hub in the budget. Overall, I am confident that this recommendation from the Dairy Task Force 2.0 is a strong, powerful step toward real results that will help the dairy industry and agriculture overall.