USDA touts $80M for dairy initiatives

Jacqui Fatka

March 03, 2022



USDA’s Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives have supported regional-focused efforts tailored to the needs of dairy farmers and businesses locally. Now USDA is offering an additional $80 million funding to expand the capacity of the four initiatives that received $18.4 million last November to build on the initial investment.


USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt visited several locations in Vermont on Thursday, March 3, to meet with representatives of the dairy industry, visit with USDA grant recipients and highlight USDA’s efforts across the region to strengthen local and regional food systems.


“The pandemic has demonstrated that dairy producers and regional dairy processors, particularly those engaged in value-added production, faced systemic shocks over the past several years,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We have heard directly from producers and processors – particularly organic producers and processors in the Northeast – on how we can work with the industry to build long-term resilience of regional dairy supply chains.”


Since its inception in 2019, DBI initiatives have provided valuable technical assistance and sub-grants to dairy farmers and businesses across their regions, assisting them with business plan development, marketing and branding, as well as increasing access to innovative production and processing techniques to support the development of value-added products. Separate from this supplemental ARP funding, the Agricultural Marketing Service plans to announce a new DBI Request for Applications later in FY22 contingent upon appropriations.


In November 2021, DBI awarded $18.4 million to three current Initiatives at University of Wisconsin, University of Tennessee, and Vermont Agency for Food and Marketing, and $1.8 million to a new initiative at California State University Fresno. Under the existing DBI program, which was previously announced through the FY21 Request for Applications, each Initiative will now have the opportunity to submit additional proposals for up to $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds to further support processing capacity expansion, on-farm improvements, and investments in supply chain resiliency.


Since 2019, the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance has served dairy businesses in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, working to increase on-farm diversification, support the creation of new value-added dairy products, including specialty cheeses, and expand dairy export endeavors.


The Dairy Business Innovation Alliance led by Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will receive $20 million. “This is a historic investment in dairy businesses, and so vital at a time of trade volatility, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions challenging dairy farm and dairy processor businesses,” says John Umhoefer, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association executive director.


Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., authored the bill creating the Dairy Business Innovation Initiative program, successfully shepherding its passage in 2018.


“As our dairy economy faces supply chain challenges, this federal funding from USDA for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives will help Wisconsin dairy businesses to address those challenges, grow their business, modernize their dairy plants and reach new markets. It’s critical that farmers, cheesemakers, and dairy processors have tools to innovate and develop new Made in Wisconsin dairy products to build a brighter future for our dairy farms and drive our rural economy forward,” Baldwin says.


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