100 Years of Success

Volume 139, No. 33, Friday, February 6, 2015

The advent of a landmark law and regulations that licensed cheese makers and dairy plants in Wisconsin exactly 100 years ago was ushered in with these words: “We had to make them comprehensive, we had to make them adequate as to get good results, and we had to make them reasonable, and I can assure you that the members of the Dairy and Food Commission are a great deal more anxious that those regulations be reasonable than you are. We do not want to force any unreasonable law or regulations on you.”

The License Law
Thus spoke Mr. E. L. Aderhold, Wisconsin dairy regulator, in January 1916 at the 24th annual gathering of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA). “The License Law,” signed by Governor Philipp in 1915, created a professional license for the Wisconsin cheese maker (requiring 12 months experience) and a license and regulations for cheese factories and creameries numbering more than 2,000 in the state.

The verbatim meeting records of the WCMA provide a glimpse into this formative past, including cheese makers complaining the very next year of neighboring factories operating without license. Yet who could argue that a state making 234 million pounds of cheese in 1915 and 2.8 billion pounds 100 years later hasn’t benefitted from a law that began an era of trained, licensed cheese makers and rules for dairy plant construction and sanitation.
Wisconsin saw a glimpse of Mr. Aderhold’s “reasonable” spirit recently when the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (WDATCP) proposed a new production-surface sampling (swabbing) program last summer for all food and dairy plants in the state.

Today’s pitched battle by Europe to claw back cheese names is mocked by history.
—John Umhoefer

After consulting with industry Q/A experts, the food safety division within WDATCP refined its swabbing concept. Now, a dairy plant with no food safety violations and with an established environmental sampling and microbiological testing program will not face additional swabbing by state inspectors.

In other words, WDATCP chose the pragmatic solution of accepting industry sampling data verified by professional labs, rather than building a redundant sampling program. E. L. Aderhold would be proud.

Another current issue echoes through the past in a 1918 speech given by Fred Marty entitled “Foreign Cheese.” Wisconsin is, apparently, approaching its 100-year anniversary of the production of Greek and Italian-style cheeses in the state. “In the last two years,” Marty told the WCMA annual meeting in 1918, “an addition of Italian and Greek origin [cheeses] today are manufactured in the state of Wisconsin….These different types of cheese, such as Romano, Reggiano, Myzithra, etc. add a new branch of foreign cheese to our cheese industry….”

Seventy-six years later, in 1992, the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano in Italy earned a US trademark for the words Parmigiano Reggiano. And 80 years after Wisconsin started making Reggiano, the European Union classified Parmigiano Reggiano in 1996 as a protected designation of origin (PDO) food for Italy, a classification for geographic indicators recognized in the EU.

The Italian Consorzio for Parmigiano Reggiano wasn’t even founded in Italy until 18 years after Mr. Marty noted that Italian immigrants were producing Reggiano in Wisconsin.

Today’s pitched battle by Europe to claw back cheese names is mocked by history. Cheeses such as Swiss, Romano, Reggiano, Feta, Asiago and Gruyere are cheese types, not location indicators. Certainly these cheeses have origins in Europe, but for more than 100 years immigrants have produced European cheese types in America and other New Worlds.

These cheeses are rooted in their new homes, like the immigrant families that brought the skills to make these cheeses.

Europeans will continue to seek United States trademarks for cheese styles and will continue to seek protected designations of origin for cheeses, and then try to impose those PDOs in trade treaties worldwide. But this is an economic effort, not a cultural one. Skills in cheesemaking, winemaking, masonry, mining, baking and more followed Europeans as they settled abroad, and these products and skills are woven into American culture.

“The growth of the cheese industry in Wisconsin has been remarkable,” Wisconsin’s Dairy and Food Commissioner George Weigle stated in 1916. “Some of the cheese makers had followed the profession in their native country across the waters, or possibly others had become cheese makers because they followed the footsteps of their fathers. These men as a rule were experts and laid the foundation of what would one day be called the greatest industry of a great state.”

Here’s to 100 years of great, licensed cheesemaking in Wisconsin. JU

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org


Other John Umhoefer Columns

Thoughts for a
Dairy Forum


A Different Dairy Scene in 2015

 The Truth About Animal Care
 A Regulatory Hat Trick
 Flawed Security Program Bilks Wisconsin Dairy
 Leading Cheese Producers
 Success by the Numbers
 It’s Time for Training
 Exports Trump Farm Bill
 Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute’s 20-20 Vision
 Addressing Wastewater Head On
 Knowledge Opportunities Abound
 Say No to an Extreme Raw Milk Bill
 A Generation's Gift
 Government-Induced Uncertainty

 Decades Ahead on Food Safety
 Wisconsin’s Hot Winter
 A Successful Campaign for Babcock
 Ireland: Gearing Up For Growth
 Mired in Wash Water
 Less Government, More Dairy
An Interview With Jim Sartorii
The Other Solids Price Crush

 The Policy Answer Is Exports
 Rolling The Dice On Dairy Reforms
 Productive Changes In Wisconsin

 The Successful Idea Of DBIC
 Cheese Cuts Both Ways:
Consolidation and Growth
 IDFA's Deep Dairy Reforms
 Wisconsin In The Spotlight
 An Overbuilt Foundation

 What the New Governor Means To Wisconsin
 No Man's Land
 Dairy & Wisconsin’s New Leadership

Wisconsin Cheese Is Investing, Expanding
 Talking Competition
 Being Big Dairy
Upper Midwest Prospects in 2010
Upper Midwest Growth: Perspectives From The Farm
Blue Skies or Bust
Pushing Back Against A Tough 2009
Support Demand, Not Price
Dairy: A Good Bet in a Bad Economy
Wisconsin's Future: Growth
Keeping Sustainability Real
Nose Dive
Dairy Dives into 2009
Consider This...
 Fulls Vats
Implement Make Allowances ASAP
Security Reforms
Spring Forward
A Week of Clarity

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