Wisconsin is renowned for its dairy production, earning it the nickname of America's Dairyland. The industry is a major part of the state's economy, with its presence in official state symbols, slogans, and neighborhoods. In 1933, during the Great Depression, dairy farmers in Wisconsin went on strike to try to increase the price of milk. In the late 20th century, automatic milking systems were developed and gradually introduced to Wisconsin farms.
However, at the same time, cheese factories in the state began to bring in milk from other states due to its lower cost, even with transportation costs included. Darin Von Ruden, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, recently commented that the current pricing system may result in farmers being paid less for their milk than it costs to produce it. Industrial farms have become more prominent in Wisconsin's dairy production. These large-scale operations are capable of housing thousands of cows in metal buildings and are able to take advantage of their size and modernize dairy production.
As a result, Wisconsin is the only state in the US that requires cheese production to be supervised by a licensed cheesemaker. Studies conducted in Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties have reached similar conclusions about industrial farms taking over a greater part of milk production. Dairy production in Wisconsin includes collecting and processing animal milk (usually cow's milk) and processing it into cheese, butter, or other dairy products. The number of industrial dairy farms in the state has increased by 55% over the last decade, according to figures from the Department of Natural Resources. Tim Trotter, executive director of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, has stated that these farms are not the answer. Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has attributed farm consolidation as one of the main reasons for fewer licensed dairy producers in the state.
California surpassed Wisconsin as the leading milk producing state in 1993 due to its rapid growth in dairy production and an increase in tariffs on dairy products. So how does the dairy industry in Eau Claire compare to other areas of Wisconsin? While there is no definitive answer to this question, it is clear that industrial farms have had a major impact on dairy production throughout the state. The current pricing system may be resulting in farmers being paid less for their milk than it costs to produce it. Additionally, California's growth in dairy production and an increase in tariffs on dairy products have largely contributed to a decline in productivity in Wisconsin. It is evident that industrial farms have had a significant effect on dairy production across Wisconsin. This has resulted in fewer licensed producers and a pricing system that may be paying farmers less than what it costs them to produce milk.
California's growth and tariffs on dairy products have also contributed to a decrease in productivity within the state. Comparing Eau Claire's dairy industry with other areas of Wisconsin can help us understand how these changes have impacted different parts of the state.