The UW System was proud to host its first Wisconsin Idea Summit last week. These summits are part of our 2020FWD strategic framework and are intended to identify the most pressing challenges and opportunities in the state.

President Cross addresses the crowd at the Dairy Summit.

Wisconsin’s reputation as “America’s Dairyland” made it an easy decision to focus our first summit on the dairy industry. This is an industry woven into our state’s DNA, and its economic impact cannot be overstated.

The Dairy Summit convened top researchers, industry leaders, and policy makers. Speakers and panelists gave unique perspectives on where the industry stands now and, more importantly, they spoke about how we should prepare for the future – 15 years from now, 20 years from now, and beyond. Each session was informative and illuminating.

Major issues face the dairy industry in our increasingly globalized world, including:

  • Trade factors
  • Production factors
  • Alterations in pricing structures
  • Changes in consumer tastes

Despite all these challenges, Wisconsin can and must be the standard-bearer for all things dairy. Thanks to innovations made possible by UW System research, we have seen advances over the course of the past 20 years in milk quality, feed quality, herd management, cow care, and more.

Building on these advances, I want us to look at the top categories and metrics in the dairy industry, and aim to be the best in all of them. We may not be number one in everything, but we can compete in every single category. If we make the right decisions today, we have the opportunity to be the “World’s Dairyland.”

Attendees at the summit were asked to identify what they see as the key priorities for the dairy industry. What do we have to do as a state to ensure we are authentically listening to consumers so our dairy products have the highest value?

Through collaboration between industry officials, farmers, processors, policy makers, researchers, and consumers, we can optimize the endless opportunities with dairy in Wisconsin and face any challenges head-on.