Today’s headline: Wisconsin produces more specialty cheese than any other state. Whoo-hoo!

The National Agricultural Statistics Service today announced that Wisconsin cheesemakers continue to lead the nation in crafting innovative cheeses. Specialty cheese production in 2007 rose 3 percent above the previous year, setting a new record.

Specialty cheese in Wisconsin now totals 399 million pounds and accounts for 16 percent of the state’s total cheese production. That’s a lot of cheese trays.

In addition, there are more cheese plants here than there were a year ago, and more of them are producing specialty cheese. According to the report, 83 of Wisconsin’s 124 cheese plants manufacture at least one type of specialty cheese. Last year, 80 of the state’s 122 cheese plants did so.

Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen told the Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute this morning that the report only confirms what he’s witnessed first hand since he took office in 2004: a steady increase in Wisconsin’s specialty cheese sector that translates into a stronger and more profitable America’s Dairyland.

Also, a few more interesting stats, according to the Dept of Agriculture: since 2004, Wisconsin’s dairy processors have invested an estimated $500 million to modernize their facilities, and have opened 34 new dairy plants and expanded 54 more. In addition, in the last three years, Wisconsin dairy farmers have produced 9 percent more milk than before — lending more milk to be made into yet more cheese.

In fact, two more specialty dairy plants are poised to celebrate their grand openings in the next few weeks — Woolwich Dairy on May 9, and Sassy Cow Creamery on May 22.

Seems like we have a lot to celebrate. Keep on, keepin’ on, Wisconsin cheesemakers!!