WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -- Senator Tammy Baldwin spent part of Tuesday touring the new Great Lakes Cheese facility in Wausau, where she discussed the benefits of the new Dairy Business Innovation Center located at UW-Madison.
Baldwin was able to help secure $20 million in funding for the facility, which will be spread out in two areas including grant funding and training and technical assistance. Those grants will go to producers that need to implement something, but don't have the capital to finish the plan. "The idea [may] be here, it's well developed, but you need a little help to get across the finish line and start that innovation," said Baldwin.
She says the training could include one-on-one or group coaching to create a business plan for an expansion of a small operation, adding those services will be provided either free or at reduced costs. "Our dairy farmers and processors have very little excess cash these days." She's hopeful that the center will lead to more small and medium-sized operations being able to weather the recent run of low milk prices, especially because she sees so much potential in the small outfits. "A lot of the folks that have had to close their operations have been small or medium-sized farms, I think one of our strengths is our diversity. A lot of the things you can do in a smaller operation that' you can't in a larger are artisan cheeses or specialty dairy items. Innovation is what keeps small and medium-sized dairies relevant. "I disagree with [Ag Secretary] Sonny Perdue when he says you have to get big or else," she added.
Baldwin adds that Wisconsin has been losing an average of three dairy farms per day and over 1,700 in the last three years. "It's a tragedy, and I feel like we are also losing some of our diversity." The Center will not only serve the state of Wisconsin but other areas in the upper Midwest such as Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and the upper peninsula of Michigan.
ON RECENT INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS, Baldwin also briefly answered questions on recent international developments regarding President Trump and the decision to pull troops out of Turkey. "The implications are quite scary. There's a lot of ISIS fighters in the area. Whether they would spread across the region if there is military action taken there creating another major challenge for the area, we don't know. That's a big concern," she said. Baldwin added she is concerned about the details of the President's call to his counterpart in Ukraine, adding she is glad that will be getting a closer look.
"I don't think we should ever have our national security or the security of our elections placed in jeopardy." She closed by saying she hopes President Trump is listening to those in the Department of Defense and other military personnel when it comes to these topics because this is not an area where he should be "going it alone."