WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an additional $80 million will be invested in the Dairy Business Innovation (DBI) Initiatives.

DBI awarded $18.4 million in November 2021 to initiatives at the University of Tennessee, Vermont Agency for Food and Marketing and the University of Wisconsin, as well as $1.8 million to a new initiative at California State University Fresno.

Through the DBI program, each initiative now can submit additional proposals for up to $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds. That money would be used to further processing capacity expansion, on-farm improvements and technical assistance for producers.

“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,” said US Secretary of Agriculture 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. The Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives have supported regional-focused efforts tailored to the needs of dairy farmers and businesses locally. This additional funding will expand the capacity of the four initiatives to provide technical assistance and sub-grants exponentially.”

First formed in 2019, DBI initiatives bolster dairy farms and businesses with technical assistance and sub-grants. Farmers also receive support with developing business plans, marketing and branding. Plus, the initiatives provide more access to innovations in production and processing.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service plans to announce another DBI Request for Applications later in 2022, contingent upon appropriations.

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) applauded the USDA’s latest show of support for the dairy industry. Four regional DBI programs, including the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance led by WCMA and the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the University of Wisconsin, will be eligible to apply for up to $20 million in funds.

“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,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA’s executive director. “It demonstrates the firm commitment of the Biden Administration, Secretary Vilsack, and Senator (Tammy) Baldwin to stabilize and strengthen the US dairy industry in ways that will enable us to meet the demands of a growing international marketplace.”

Serving dairy businesses in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, the DBI Alliance works to increase on-farm diversification, support the creation of new value-added products such as specialty cheeses, and expand dairy export endeavors.

With total funding of $12.7 million so far, the Alliance of WCMA and Center for Dairy Research has delivered educational resources, direct consulting assistance, market research, product development and more than $6.8 million in direct-to-business grants.