Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin expands into international markets
In 1983, Wisconsin dairy farmers saw a need to come together and form an organization to help market their products, which earned Wisconsin a well-deserved reputation as America’s Dairyland. To get the job done, they agreed to use proceeds from the sale of milk to fund the marketing effort. Their foresight resulted in the nonprofit Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, today known as the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
For every 100 pounds of milk Wisconsin dairy farmers sell, 10 cents go to fund the Madison-based organization to promote the sale and consumption of dairy products. Another nickel goes to the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board to bolster market-building efforts nationally.
“We’re kind of the congregator of talent and resources and programs to really make this whole thing sing,” said Chad Vincent, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
Spreading the word about Wisconsin dairy
The organization’s efforts on behalf of Wisconsin’s 6,000 dairy farmers have paid off.
“The world needs to be fed, and we have an incredible product,” said Vincent. “The dairy industry in Wisconsin is so critical. It’s a $45.6 billion economic impact in the state every year and over 100,000 jobs. It really keeps rural Wisconsin rolling.”
Of the milk produced in Wisconsin, 90% is used to produce cheese, and 90% of that cheese is sold outside of the state. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin works with Wisconsin processors and national food service and grocery operators and distributors to ensure that the more than 600 varieties, types, and styles of Wisconsin cheese are available and promoted in all major U.S. markets.
The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin worked hard to establish new markets, build consumer trust, and educate consumers everywhere about the quality and nutritional value of Wisconsin-made dairy products.
“We have the soil, we have the natural rain, we can grow the high-quality forages, we have the climate that our dairy cows thrive in—and with that, we’re really good at producing milk here in Wisconsin,” Vincent added.
Global markets beckon
In recent years, the organization has increased its focus on international markets. Markets with recent new sales include Singapore, Thailand, Kuwait, South Korea, Canada, and Japan. The organization’s four-person export team offers integrated programs for cheese processors, exporters, and consolidators.
The organization also conducts dairy immersion trips that provide international visitors with a firsthand look inside Wisconsin’s dairy industry, including setting up meetings with dairy processors to sell products, experiencing dairy farms, and showcasing the supply chain at work.
The group partners with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection; the Center for Dairy Research; the U.S. Dairy Export Council; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To expand its dairy export capabilities, the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin joined with other dairy industry nonprofits to form the Wisconsin Alliance for Dairy Export. The group helped position Wisconsin as the Cheese State, which has driven distribution, raised the worldwide profile of Wisconsin cheese, and enabled products made here to compete on a global scale.
The organization’s efforts to crack international markets were recognized with a 2023 Governor’s Export Achievement Award.
Vincent praised the ExporTech™ program, which helps small to midsize Wisconsin companies tap into new markets with a customized export expansion strategy.
“It’s one of those partners in Wisconsin that just make this whole export thing work,” he said.
The focus on dairy export is working and creating success across the state.
“To export those dairy products and bring those resources back here to bolster our local economies is huge,” said Mark Crave, general manager and operating partner at Crave Brothers Farm. “Being recognized by the Governor’s Export Achievement Award validates what Wisconsin dairy is to our state.”