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Wisconsin: Hard times as 1,500 dairy farms are lost

Low milk prices over the last few years have resulted in a loss of over 1,500 dairy farms in the last 2 years in Wisconsin, USA.

To be exact, 818 dairy farms were lost in 2019 and 703 dairy farms stopped operating in 2018, totalling 1,521. The amount of dairy farms that have gone out of business in 2019 makes it one of the worst years for dairy closures. Cited as problems in the industry are: A decline in consumer demand, trade loss and an oversupply of milk – resulting in low milk prices. Over the last 5 years, milk prices have remained low, knocking back farmers financially and left unable to pay bills.

Photo: Henk Riswick
Photo: Henk Riswick

Hard times: Largest milk producers

Big industry milk producers are struggling too. According to a UPI news report, America's largest milk producer, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection in November, citing "a challenging operating environment" and declining "consumer milk consumption." And on Sunday, a second major American dairy company, Bordon Dairy, also filed for bankruptcy protection.

Addressing agricultural issues

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers yesterday gave a speech in which he touched on the topic of the major decline and challenges in the dairy industry.

Evers stated that Wisconsin saw a loss of a third of its dairy farms from 2011 to 2018. "We’ve endured the consequences of unnecessary and unproductive tariffs and trade wars," added Evers.

Wisconsin at a glance

Wisconsin in the US is known as ‘America's Dairyland’ as it is one of the nation’s leading dairy producers, and is particularly famous for its cheese. California has surpassed Wisconsin as the nation's largest producer of milk, Wisconsin still produces the most cheese.

In 1990 31,282 dairy farms were in operation in Wisconsin with 1,75 million cows. Currently, there are 7,292 dairy farms with 1.265 million dairy cows.

He announced a three-pronged plan to address that. Evers states that a goal for 2019 is to promote rural and agricultural prosperity.

UPI further reported that in the final months of 2019, milk prices rose to 20 cents per pound - the highest they had been since 2014. There may be hope on the horizon as milk prices at the start of January are slightly higher than last year’s January price.

The US is one of the leading producers of cow milk globally. The trade war with China has placed added pressure on the US dairy industry with tariffs on a number of US agricultural exports.

From July 2018 and July 2019, the US saw major shrinkage of its dairy herd by 100,000 cows – dropping from 9.4 million animals to 9.3 million.