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Bill Would Remove 'America's Dairyland' From License Plates
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/06/2017

A recently sparked idea to remove the slogan 'America's Dairyland' from Wisconsin license plates has prompted a Republican state lawmaker to draft legislation that would hold a contest to replace the decades-old phrase. Rep. Scott Allen of Waukesha issued a memo to his legislative colleagues last week claiming that over 70-percent of Wisconsinites live in urban areas and that it's time to modify the slogan to reflect the state's growth in biotechnology and manufacturing.

"We are proud of our heritage as 'America's Dairyland,' and the fact that we not only produce the most cheese, but also the best cheese in the entire United States," Allen said. "We also need to communicate to the nation that Wisconsin is so much more. Wisconsin's economy has undergone a remarkable transformation from rural to urban, from agriculture to bioengineering and high-tech manufacturing. License plates should reflect who we are, not who we were."

As part of his measure, Allen wants to hold a contest next year for state high school students to create a new slogan and design. The governor would evaluate the entries and choose a winner, who would be given a $1,000 scholarship for their efforts. The state DOT would then issue the updated plates starting in mid-2019.

But state farm groups were quick slam the idea. Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte said the bill draft spits in the face of the dairy community, which is something he says should be celebrated, not eliminated.

"'America's Dairyland' is who we are and where our future lies," Holte said. "Our dairy industry is a prime example of progress and innovation. Whether we are talking about our state's top-of-the-line research facilities, high-tech milk processing plants or smart farms we are a viewed as global leader when it comes to dairy."

Holte adds that no other single product drives more of an economic impact in Wisconsin than milk and that the slogan has earned it's right to be on our license plate.

Other leaders from the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association and Dairy Business Association also expressed disappointment.

"We have a brand. It is viewed positively by the overwhelming majority of people. We have spent more than a century and a lot effort and money to create this brand. It does not make sense to back away from it," said DBA President Mike North. "At a minimum, we should be quietly thankful. Even better, we should do more to strengthen our brand. Therefore, at a minimum, we ask that you oppose this proposed legislation. Even better, let's get creative with what the Legislature can do to further strengthen our strong and dynamic dairy community."

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce President Kurt Bauer first mentioned the idea of changing the license plates during a meeting last month, saying he favors a more contemporary phrase like 'Forward,' which is the state's motto. He also feels verbiage relating to the manufacturing sector would be more appropriate than the agricultural language in terms of describing the state's economy.

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