Alrighty, now that I’ve reclaimed my blog from a comment-crazy person suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect (sorry folks – had to turn off comments on my blog for awhile), it’s time to update you on the Wisconsin Buttermaker License situation.

Yesterday, the Department of Agriculture Board made a significant first step in updating the old rules we have in this state by authorizing public hearings on a new draft rule to revise current training and requirements for licensed buttermakers.

Under current law, anyone applying for a buttermaker’s license must pass an exam and match at least one other qualification, including: 1) working under a licensed buttermaker for at least 24 months, 2) working under a licensed buttermaker for 18 months and have completed a training course approved by the agriculture department, or 3) possess a four-year degree in food science, and have worked under a licensed buttermaker at least 12 months.

Whew, makes me exhausted just writing all that, much less doing it.

Not surprisingly, because of current law – which by the way has seen very little change since 1929 – we’re down to 46 licensed buttermakers in Wisconsin (compared to more than 1,200 licensed cheesemakers).

With a growing national market for butter, and especially artisan, hand-churned butters, Wisconsin is very much at risk of losing its leadership in the dairy industry unless the old rules are changed.

So yesterday, the Dept of Ag Board approved scheduling a public hearing that will change the above arcane process to a more reasonable one. It includes:

Anyone aspiring to obtain a buttermakers’s license must pass an exam and complete the following: 1) apprentice under a current buttermaker for 120 hours, 2) complete the new buttermaker course – to be offered by the Center for Dairy Research on Sept 14-16 in Madison, 3) complete additional day courses regarding production of safe dairy foods, HACCP process control, principles of milk pasteurization and dairy sanitation.

Also – in exciting news – the new draft rule allows any current licensed cheesemaker to obtain a buttermaker’s license by taking the Center for Dairy Research butter course, and working 40 hours under a current licensed buttermaker. This will certainly help boost the number of buttermakers rather quickly in the state, allowing more choices for aspiring buttermakers to apprentice under.

Next steps: the Dept of Ag will hold a public hearing (place and time to be determined), and following public comment, will prepare a final draft rule for the Ag Board’s consideration. If approved, the rule will go to the Legislature for review by committee. If the Legislature takes no action to stop the rule, the Ag Secretary will sign the rule into effect. The goal is to adopt the rule in early 2011. Whoo-hoo!