Dairy State needs Line 5 pipeline

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Paul Fezer

ELMWOOD – Say “Wisconsin” to anyone in America and ask them what they think. Chances are “cheese” or “milk” is their answer.

The dairy industry is steeped in Wisconsin culture and history. We’ve been called America’s Dairy State and Dairyland since the late 1800s. To this day, Wisconsin ranks second in the United States for milk production, behind California – a state three times the size of us – and first in the country for cheese production.

But the business dynamics of running a dairy farm are complicated and constantly changing. At nearly 110 years old, our family farm near Elmwood, about 200 miles northwest of Madison in Pierce County, has grown and adapted to meet demand and survive the growing realities of the global marketplace. of today. Milking only 100 cows in the late 1960s, our farm now milks over 1,400 cows and provides jobs for dozens of families.

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Although our farm has gone through transformations, one constant has always been the need for affordable and reliable energy. We need to power farm equipment and heat our homes and buildings. We also use fuel in less obvious ways. Milk production requires a large amount of hot water to keep our milking areas and equipment clean and hygienic, and crop drying is essential to prevent spoilage.

The most economical method of providing the energy needed to create this necessary heat remains propane.

Unfortunately, the propane supply that so many Wisconsin dairy farmers rely on is now in jeopardy. Enbridge’s Line 5, which runs through far northern Wisconsin, transports much of the raw product needed for propane in our region. Known as natural gas liquids, this product travels by pipeline from Western Canada and the Dakotas to refineries in the Midwest, and comes back to us as usable propane.

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Line 5 crosses a small portion of a tribal reservation in Ashland County, and at the request of the tribe, Enbridge has proposed a 40-mile diversion of the pipeline. Unfortunately, this necessary piece of our regional energy network has been targeted by activists who want to shut down Line 5 and all energy pipelines. Without scalable and economically viable solutions to replace this important source of rural energy, opponents of the pipeline and the relocation project demand that we simply close the pipeline.

This misconception would have significant consequences for our energy supply and processes. In fact, a major propane supplier in our area has warned that the Line 5 shutdown could put Wisconsin into a state of propane emergency, sending prices to levels never seen before.

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The reality is that we can replace the energy lost if Line 5 is closed, but at extreme costs to the dairy industry and the entire food supply chain. Rising energy costs for this industry, which is already experiencing incredibly tight margins, would undoubtedly lead to dairy farm closures at an accelerated rate. This would mean higher prices for milk and other dairy products like cheese, butter, yogurt and cream.

Additionally, the prices of milk-dependent products such as infant formula and whey-based nutritional supplements for the elderly and malnourished would increase. The shock wave would even impact other foods of animal origin, which often use milk-based products for food.

Our family farm has survived for over a century because we make thoughtful, practical decisions with the consequences in mind. Shutting down line 5 without a viable and affordable solution to replace the energy running through it is unwise. I and countless other Wisconsin farmers support moving Line 5 because we understand how important Line 5 is to the economic and social well-being of our state.

Fetzer lives and farms near Elmwood with his two brothers. He is a member of the Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin and has served on the association’s board of directors since 2015.

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