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Lawmakers float bill to promote dairy industry research

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By Shereen Siewert

The Wisconsin Legislature is considering a bill introduced in late April that aims to strengthen the state’s dairy industry.

Wisconsin’s dairy industry remains a strong presence in the state that contributes about $44 billion each ear to Wisconsin’s economy. Still, the industry faces a multitude of struggles that the bill is meant to tackle.

The proposal by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green; Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City; and 26 other Republicans, calls for spending $7.9 million a year on dairy research at a Dairy Innovation Hub within the campuses of UW-Madison, UW-River Falls and UW-Platteville.

In a statement, UW System spokesman Mark Pitsch said, “President Cross worked closely with dairy leaders and lawmakers to help craft this legislation. He recognizes the importance of the dairy industry to the state of Wisconsin.

The proposal also includes an academy to offer dairy farmers with ongoing training on new technology and best practices within the industry.

Insiders blame budget cuts that led to a reduced number of faculty researchers at UW-Madison. Fewer researchers, the result of budget cuts within the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and UW-Extension have hampered the university’s efforts to keep pace with the industry’s growth.

However, CALS’ funding for the Center for Dairy Research also has been declining since 1999-2000, even though state money the college received for all of its research went up during that period, UW budget data show.

In a statement, UW System spokesman Mark Pitsch said, “President [Ray] Cross worked closely with dairy leaders and lawmakers to help craft this legislation. He recognizes the importance of the dairy industry to the state of Wisconsin.”

Top photo: Dairy cows nuzzle a barn cat as they wait to be milked at a farm in Granby, Quebec July 26, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

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