Story by WRN/Andrew Beckett
While Wisconsin has long been known for the cheese produced here, it’s now officially one of the items that helps to define the state.
Governor Scott Walker on Thursday signed legislation designating cheese the official state dairy product.
The governor signed the bill at a Mineral Point school, where a group of fourth graders first proposed the state symbol status to Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green). “These kids knocked it out of the park,” Novak says. “They were so impressive. They had studied the dairy industry, the cheese industry, and spent about an hour going over why cheese should be the state dairy product.”
From there, those students helped lobby for the bill Novak and Marklein introduced, which included sending letters to lawmakers and testifying during a hearing at the Capitol.
Wisconsin’s list of state symbols does include other mentions of the dairy industry – including milk as the official state beverage and the dairy cow as the state’s domestic animal. Still, Novak says it’s important to highlight the role cheese plays in the dairy industry as well, since about 90 percent of the milk produced in the state is made into cheese. “I think we all realized how important cheese is to the state of Wisconsin, and there wasn’t any mention of it anywhere,” Novak says.
Photo: WRN/Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association