Gov. Scott Walker announced Tuesday the state will give better terms on loan guarantees for eligible dairy farmers and milk processors as the trade dispute with Canada continues.
Walker also said he spoke with President Trump by phone Tuesday and Monday as Trump’s administration announced the latest salvo in the battle.
The two countries have been at odds over a Canadian trade policy shift that’s left dozens of Wisconsin dairy farmers struggling to find a buyer for their ultra-filtered milk.
Thirty-nine of the 58 dairy farms that were affected have yet to find a buyer, according to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, though DATCP spokesman Bill Cosh said those figures are subject to change quickly.
Cosh also said the agency is “making every effort possible to work with our partners in the dairy industry to make sure every farm has a market for their milk.”
Trump tweeted about the issue Tuesday, saying: “Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!”
His administration also announced yesterday it was planning on imposing tariffs on Canadian exports of softwood lumber, much of which is used to build homes.
Walker’s office said in a readout of his call with Trump that they spoke about both topics and he “thanked President Trump for taking action and supporting Wisconsin’s dairy farmers.” A Walker spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment on more detail.
Walker’s action would let eligible farmers and processors access more favorable loan guarantees from WHEDA, which works with lenders to provide low-cost financing for small businesses.
WHEDA Chief Operating Officer Brian Schimming said that could help, for example, a milk storage facility expand its capabilities so it can buy and store the milk from some of the affected dairy farms.
Greg Steele, the Baldwin-based vice president of the AgStar dairy lending team, said WHEDA can also help community bankers and other lenders ensure they can loan money to a dairy producer that might be too risky to lend to under the current structure.
The producers would then get an influx of money to help them as they work on finding new buyers, he said.
“That’s good for everybody,” Steele said.
Walker’s office says the changes “will help Wisconsin dairy producers and processors access much-needed capital to address current market conditions.”
“This is a difficult time for many of Wisconsin’s dairy farm families due to Canada’s dairy trade policies, and we’re going to do everything we can to help them,” Walker said in a statement.