WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced on Thursday the Local Cheese Promotion and Dairy Support Act – legislation to increase federal support and resources for small cheese producers in Connecticut and across the United States. The legislation will strengthen local dairy supply chains by creating a new $5 million grant program to help small cheese producers grow their businesses. To support local agricultural systems, preference will be given to cheese producers who use local or regional milk to make cheese. The legislation will also provide opportunities for experienced cheesemakers and other experts to receive funding to provide technical assistance and trainings to beginning cheesemakers.
“I’ve visited cheesemakers across Connecticut, like Sankow’s Beaver Brook farm in Old Lyme and Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, and seen firsthand the important role small cheesemakers have in Connecticut’s agriculture sector,” said Murphy. “As milk prices remain low, dairy farmers are looking for new opportunities to sell their milk. I’m fighting to pass our Local Cheese Promotion and Dairy Support Act into law to help cheesemakers and dairy farmers across Connecticut get the necessary financial support to help them thrive. There’s more we need to do in the 2018 Farm Bill, but passing the Local Cheese Promotion and Dairy Support Act would be a great first step.”
“Pennsylvania dairy producers are some of the best in the world,” said Casey. “It is for that reason we must do all we can to help support and grow their work. This legislation aims to make it easier for small and local cheese producers to grow their businesses by helping support the training and resources needed to help them increase their competitiveness.”
In Connecticut, artisanal cheese is a growing part of the state’s dairy sector and value-added agricultural economy. Connecticut’s dairy producers contribute nearly $1.3 billion and 4,286 jobs to the state annually. However, small cheesemakers in Connecticut often face thin profit margins and long working hours, making it difficult for them to grow their businesses and plan for the future.
Pennsylvania is home to 6,650 dairy farms (2016) and sixth in the nation in milk production. The industry generates $6 billion annually for the state’s economy and supports 58,000 jobs statewide.
The Local Cheese Promotion and Dairy Support Act will give entrepreneurial cheese producers the assurances and safety net they need to expand and grow. The bill will provide grants that small cheesemakers can apply for to assist with purchasing equipment, renovating or repairing production facilities, developing business plans, marketing products, and paying for financial literacy or food safety trainings. The bill will also set aside 10% of funding to allow land grant universities, experienced producers, and nonprofit organizations to establish cheese making resource centers and to provide assistance to new producers.