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Executive Letter: Celebrating Dairy Month in America’s Dairyland

By Rose Oswald Poels

Dairy Month has deep roots in supporting the agricultural industry. During the warmer months of summer when extra milk needed to be distributed, this celebration doubled as a way of promoting any surplus produced on dairy farms. Here in Wisconsin, June Dairy Month takes on a different, more personal meaning.

The history of dairy farming in our state is a rich and extensive one and I’m proud of the valuable role Wisconsin ag lenders have played throughout this time. Starting in the late 19th century, dairy quickly became an efficient alternative to wheat when its price began to drop and yields started to diminish. The growth of dairy rapidly expanded thanks to the help of New York settlers familiar with the craft, the marketing and promotion of the enterprise spearheaded by William Dempster Hoard, and the scientific research performed at the University of Wisconsin. By the early 20th century, Wisconsin had become the nation’s leading dairy state and the emblematic community of Cheeseheads it is proudly known as today.

Despite its iconic rise in the Badger State, the dairy industry has certainly faced its ups and downs throughout the last century, as our ag lenders know all too well. In January of this year, Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Chief Administrative Officer Kim Pokorny detailed in her economic update that despite a navigation through unstable markets, the farmers in our state have encountered a “fair-to-good financial year” through federal support programs, an increase in exports, and a record harvest. The dairy industry specifically has had a stronger demand in cheese, and sales of Class III milk used to produce most spreadable cheese and cheese to be grated or shredded is expected to remain especially strong.

This year has been difficult for many. Unpredictable, unforeseeable, and unprecedented; these have been the describing words of our businesses, our communities, and our lives since March of 2020. But as we are coming to fully understand, this past year has not redefined our businesses or their commitment to our state. As Jeff Gruetzmacher, SVP at Royal Bank, stated in his recent “From the Fields” editorial, “agriculture is one of those industries that can shine through just about any adversity thrown its way.” With this combination of commitment and support, there is no doubt that the industry will remain successful.

To further support farmers, WBA is one of many organizations in several states supporting the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America (ECORA) Act in Congress, as well as in Wisconsin. This legislation would allow banks to lower interest rates on farm real estate loans and more efficiently serve borrowers in smaller rural communities. The goal is to benefit our farmers in this way and ensure that the agricultural industry will receive increased access to low-cost credit from banks. With commodity prices fluctuating and the cost for land and farm inputs continuing to rise, optimism cannot be the only force helping our farmers. There is action to be taken, and WBA is proud to advocate for it.

I know many banks celebrate June Dairy Month with their customers, and I hope everyone has taken time this month to enjoy the delicious products made from milk. As America’s Dairyland, we remain proud of the products and people that have helped define our state. And WBA remains proud of the ag lenders that work diligently alongside their farm customers to help them succeed through all the highs and lows of farming. This month is more than a celebration; it is a reminder of Wisconsin’s roots and the growth of our culture through the workers and lenders who have made it all possible.