Gov. Jim Doyle announced that Wisconsin cheesemakers continue to lead the nation in crafting innovative cheeses. Specialty cheese production in 2007 rose 3% above the previous year, setting a new record. Specialty cheese totaled 399 million pounds and accounted for 16% of the state's total cheese production.
"Growing Wisconsin's great dairy industry is a top priority," Doyle said. "Everyone knows where the best cheese comes from. Our dairy industry and farm families are world famous for producing the best cheese. I want to thank Wisconsin's cheesemakers for all they do to keep our economy strong."
The Governor also announced there are more cheese plants in the state, and more of those are producing specialty cheese. According to the report released today by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 83 of the state's 124 cheese plants manufacture at least one type of specialty cheese, up 3 plants. The previous year, 80 of the state's 122 cheese plants produced specialty cheese.
The report confirms the steady increase in Wisconsin's specialty cheese sector. Specialty cheeses, a value-added product, command a premium price for their unique qualities. In 2003 specialty cheese accounted for 13% of the total cheese produced in the state.
The most popular specialty cheese was Feta, up 9% from the year before. Asiago, Blue, Hispanic types, Parmesan Wheel and specialty Provolone were other popular varieties.
Doyle has led a bi-partisan effort to re-invigorate the state's signature industry, resulting in record milk production, record dairy exports, more than $1 billion in re-investment by Wisconsin dairy farmers, and fewer dairy farms leaving the business. Last year, the Governor announced his "Next Generation Agriculture" Plan – a strategic investment to prepare Wisconsin farms and dairy plants for the future. The plan includes new initiatives totaling more than $33 million to move the dairy and agriculture industry forward by providing more resources to modernize and innovate, capture new markets, and seize new green opportunities.
Since 2004, Wisconsin's dairy processors have invested an estimated $500 million to modernize; opened 34 new dairy plants and expanded 54 more. Two more specialty dairy plants are poised to open in the next few weeks.
According to the Wisconsin Specialty cheese Institute, the nature of specialty cheese is derived from one or more unique qualities, such as exotic origin, particular processing or design, limited supply, unusual application or use and extraordinary packaging or channel of sale.
The state's dairies help to fuel the Wisconsin economy at the rate of more than $39,000 per minute. Dairy contributes $20.6 billion annually to Wisconsin's economy.