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Cheese makers brace for additional tariffs

MADISON (WKOW) — Wisconsin is known as America’s “Dairyland” but over the last year, retaliatory tariffs placed on the industry are causing some farmers to struggle. And now, cheese makers are concerned they might be next.

China has already put an additional 25  percent tariff on Wisconsin cheese, and for Anna Landmark, she worries there could be more.

“We’re all kind of bracing right now for a downturn on the cheese sales industry,” said Landmark, owner of Landmark Creamery in Belleville.

It’s a small operation and she says the ever-changing trade deals are a major threat to her distributors and retailers. 

“We may not grow this year,” she said.  “We don’t have to cut staff at this point but we’re kind of weighing what’s happening next year, it may mean that we’re buying less milk, and making less cheese next year.”

The International Dairy Food Association shows cheese exports to China are down 54% this year alone. For Mexico and China, data from March shows cheese exports have declined by 17%.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee defends the tariffs.

“Trump has delivered on his promise to negotiate better trade deals in the USMCA that would dramatically help Wisconsin farmers,” said Mandi Merritt, spokesperson for RNC.

Landmark said the toughest part is turning down milk producers who she says are suffering the most.

“Kind of desperately seeking new outlets for their milk, they’re either getting caught by their milk producers, because they have seen a loss of their exports. They’re selling less milk less dairy products to Canada, to Mexico to China in particular,” said Landmark. 

Landmark also fears grocery stores will increase prices on her products, which could result in fewer people buying.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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