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OPINION  The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association applauds the Wisconsin State Assembly’s unanimous approval of Senate Bill 219, which stands to expand access to capital for rural business owners including dairy manufacturers and processors.

Wisconsin’s dairy industry has faced a myriad of challenges in recent years, from the tumult of international trade to depressed milk prices that stress the financial picture for our farm-family partners. The legislation will spark lending opportunities for our rural businesses, allowing owners to invest in their companies, innovate and grow, add good-paying jobs and expand a dependable local tax base.

Conceived by Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 members, Senate Bill 219 would launch a pilot program at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Using existing funds available through the Agribusiness Guarantee Program, $3 million in loan-guarantee authority would support rural-development projects – including brick-and-mortar investments, equipment and machinery, marketing and working capital.

The pilot would guarantee as much as 25 percent of a loan or $750,000, whichever is less. The borrower is required to pay back the entirety of the loan, with a state commitment only coming into play in the event of a default. All borrowers would be subject to rigorous vetting to participate in the program.

We thank lawmakers for working across party lines to support rural economic development – and investments in Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

The Wisconsin State Senate approved Senate Bill 219 in June. The legislation will now be sent to Wis. Gov. Tony Evers for further consideration.

John Umhoefer is the executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which has served as the voice of cheese and dairy manufacturers, processors and marketers since 1891. Visit wischeesemakers.org for more information.

This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

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