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State dairy officials seeing good outlook for the year thanks to export increases, new farm bill


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Top dairy officials in the state are seeing a good future for the industry this year thanks to some changes in the market.

Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association executive director John Umhoefer says they're seeing a major change in who's buying dairy products. "Exports have reached records both on the cheese side and overall for dairy. About 15 percent of the milk being produced in the state is now going overseas, so that's a real change from 10 years ago when maybe that was less than 5 percent."

A recent spike in cheese prices did change up how orders were being placed, but Umhoefer says most plants are handling the changes. "Orders and sales for cheese softened a little bit at high prices we've had lately, but overall, between exports and domestic, there's been a lot of interest. I don't think the plants are at capacity, they're at capacity for milk production." Dairy Business Weekly is reporting that there's been a fresh demand for mozzarella and hard Italian cheeses like parmesan

Officials are also happy to see an end to the old model of dairy support from the federal government under the new farm bill. Umhoefer says the days of 'government cheese' are now over. "The government hasn't bought cheese to store away for decades, and yet that program lingered. It's now going to be a much more modern program that pays dairy producers to make sure their margins don't get squeezed." He says it's a much more beneficial program for producers. "More of a financial based approach, more of a profit based approach to the industry rather than simply storing cheese and butter in caves."

Officials say manufacturers will likely see a boost in milk supplies over the coming weeks.