MADISON, WI (OnFocus) – After a long battle with legislators in Madison, Colby native Matthew Oehmichen was back in the Capitol of Wisconsin on Jan. 18 to push for Colby Cheese to be recognized as a state symbol.
Wisconsin State Senator Kathy Bernier and State Representative Donna Rozar presented the proposal to the Committee on Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection on Tuesday.
They argued that Colby Cheese put Wisconsin on the cheese-making map and ultimately helped lead to Wisconsin being named, “America’s Dairyland”.
Mayor of Colby James Schmidt gave a testimony on the history of Colby Cheese in Colby. A majority of the history of Colby Cheese occurred before 1940 when Wisconsin was named “America’s Dairyland”.
Oehmichen then displayed several poster boards that showed the symbolism of Colby Cheese that is already prevalent in Wisconsin culture. He explained to the committee that the cheesehead, proudly worn by Green Bay Packer fans all over the world is actually a slice of Colby Cheese.
The orange-yellow color of the cheesehead resembles the color of Colby Cheese and the holes are similar to air pockets found in fresh blocks of Colby Cheese. The traditional Swiss cheese look is similar to that of a cheesehead but it is white in color as opposed to the orange-yellow color of the cheesehead, Oehmichen explained.
He showed a picture of the Wisconsin state quarter which has a block of cheese enshrined on it that looks like Colby Cheese. He also alluded to the fact that the cow is the state animal and milk is the state drink but Colby, a cheese that originated in Wisconsin was not the state cheese.
The bill is sponsored by Senators Bernier, Julian Bradley, and Lena Taylor. It is also sponsored by Representatives Rozar, Scott Allen, David Armstrong, David Bowen, Dora Drake, James Edming, Jesse James, Joel Kitchens, Gae Magnafici, David Murphy, Jeffry Mursau, Christine Sinicki, Mark Spreitzer and Don Vruwink.
Now that the Committee has heard the proposal, they will vote on it and it will move onto the next step. If the bill gets passed the Committee, it will be the first time it has made it out of the committee stage and will have multiple other hearings and votings before it becomes a bill.
Oehmichen did say after the hearing that this is the first time he has experienced positivity from a committee hearing. He said two members of the committee verbalized their support for the potential bill.
According to Oehmichen, it took six years to make cheese the state’s official dairy product and 50 years to make the Wood Violet the state’s official flower so his three-year trek to make Colby Cheese a state symbol might just be getting started.
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