Wisconsin politicians pull cheesy publicity stunt

It took three senators and eight representatives to propose a State Snack. Your tax dollars at work.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I like cheese. Do you like cheese? Wisconsin really likes cheese.

Wisconsin likes cheese so much, the state this week became the first state in the nation to honor an official state microbe, the incredibly productive Lactococcus lactis.

Politicians are a wacky bunch. In a nation struggling under challenging economic, social, and environmental conditions and in a state whose citizens are suffering with an unemployment rate of almost 9%, Wisconsin's politicians decided to take time out of their busy day to honor a microbe.

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Seriously, a microbe

Although the microbe thing is new, honoring a state whatever is a surprisingly common activity for politicians with time on their hands. There are the obvious things, like a State Capital or a State Flower.

But Wisconsin's politicians have honored sillier items, like a State Animal (badger), a State Domesticated Animal (dairy cow), and a State Wild Animal (white-tailed deer). They have a State Fruit, a State Beverage (milk, of course), a State Bird, a State Fish, a State Fossil, a State Grain, a State Rock, a State Soil (the crowd-pleasing Antigo silt loam), and even a State Symbol of Peace (the always upbeat mourning dove).

To be fair, cheese is important to Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (yep, they have one of those, too), dairy contributes more than $20.6 billion to the state's economy. Wisconsin produces more than 2.5 billion pounds of cheese annually. That's 1.134 metric megatons, or roughly the mass of 3.4 Empire State Buildings.

That's a lot of cheese. And it's all made possible by a lactic acid bacteria that's about one millionth of a meter in length. The bacteria is used for making Cheddar, Colby, cottage cheese, cream cheese, Camembert, Roquefort, and Brie, along with butter, buttermilk, and sour cream.

Weirdly enough, Wisconsin does not appear to have a State Cheese. Even so, Wisconsin senators Sullivan, Taylor and Vinehout, along with representatives Berceau, Kerkman, Ballweg, Townsend, Brooks, Nelson, Williams and Sinicki have proposed State Senate Bill 327 (PDF) where they designate Wisconsin cheese as the Wisconsin State Snack.

Yep, it took three senators and eight representatives to propose a State Snack. Your tax dollars at work.

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