Gov. Tony Evers visited Steffens Dairy Farm near Seymour on Monday morning to announce the tax credits offered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in an effort to expand the state’s dairy industry.
The tax credits will help support the expansion of Agropur Dairy Cooperative in Little Chute, which is building a new $168 million state-of-the-art cheese factory.
Dan Steffens, whose dairy is a supplier for Agropur, wishes there were more farms out there like the one his family operates.
“We don’t have any employees,” Steffens said. “It’s just myself, my brother, and my mom.”
The family, which has owned the farm since 1971, milks 130 cows on about 300 acres. Though it’s a fairly small operation, the farm runs on some pretty big modern technology, which can get expensive, especially in an uncertain market.
“With the milk prices, sometimes from one month to the next, it could double, and it could be cut in half too,” Steffens said.
That’s why having a consistent cooperative buyer can make all the difference.
Agropur’s project is expected to create at least 54 new full-time jobs, and the cooperative anticipates spending an additional $60 million more a year on milk from Wisconsin farmers. The cooperative will be eligible for up to $4.5 million in business tax credits over the next four years based on meeting hiring and capital expenditure goals.
Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski said in the Badger State, 90% of milk goes toward cheese making, and 90% of that cheese goes beyond Wisconsin’s border.
“Agriculture is a $104.8 billion industry in the state of Wisconsin, and dairy is about half of that,” Romanski said. “What is produced here goes to a local plant. It’s going to be going to Little Chute, and that could go anywhere throughout the world, so the economic impact of Wisconsin’s dairy industry is felt worldwide.”
It is also the kind of impact that can be felt at a small dairy like the one run by the Steffens family.
“We were able to show him [Gov. Evers] a smaller operation that I feel like, you know can survive for a long time,” Steffens said.
The business tax credits aren’t just backed by Democrats. State Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) also applauded Agropur’s expansion in his legislative district.
“Agropur Dairy Cooperative and Simon’s Cheese has been a valued member of our local community and the statewide dairy industry as a whole for decades,” Steineke said in a statement. “Supporting dairy farming families all across our region, it is fantastic to see that they are continuing to grow and invest right here in Wisconsin.”
The new Agropur cheesemaking facility is under construction on 24.5 acres in the Village of Little Chute. The 210,000 square foot facility will allow Agropur to double their current operations from 300 million pounds of milk per year to 750 million pounds with about 85% of that milk coming from within 40 miles of the plant.
“Having a new state-of-the-art facility will help us to solidify our leadership position in the dairy industry,” Doug Simon, Agropur’s president of U.S. operations, said. “Beyond speed and efficiency, the process and equipment will provide greater flexibility and will allow Agropur to offer a broader line of products to meet our customers’ needs.”
Agropur is the largest dairy cooperative in North America and one of the top 20 dairy producers in the world. In Wisconsin, Agropur operates facilities in La Crosse, Appleton, Little Chute, Weyauwega, and Luxemburg, employing about 850 people.