Last year was the worst for Wisconsin dairy farms since 2004, new data shows

November 15, 2019
In The News

Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland but those family farmers who gave the state its slogan are vanishing.

The state lost 638 dairy farms last year according to Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Democrats often put part of the blame on trade wars and President Donald Trump’s policies.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and other Democrats unveiled a new report this week highlighting the fact that Wisconsin lost more than 1,800 dairy farms since Trump took office.

“Wisconsin is America’s dairyland and we’ve seen horrible things happening because of the trade war with China,” Baldwin told 27 News.

While her facts match up, 27 News found Wisconsin has been steadily losing dairy farms over the last 15 years.

Data from DATCP shows in 2004 Wisconsin had 15,904 farms. As of October 2019, more than half of those are gone — only 7,476 remain.

Over the last 15 years, under three presidential administrations, the decline continues. The percentage of dairy farms lost is around 3 percent each year. From 2011-2013, the percentage went up a bit to around 5 percent, then back to 3 percent. The largest jump was in 2017, a 7.2 percent loss.

“We have reason to be concerned and frankly frustrated,” said Baldwin.

Multiple factors play a role in the downturn of the dairy industry: declining milk prices, wet weather, herd sizes getting smaller and trade disputes.

Congressman Bryan Steil (R-WI) and other Republicans in Congress believe new trade deals will help reverse the trend. They are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass the United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to increase access to markets.

“Our farmers are struggling to cope with low milk prices and limited opportunities to sell their products,” Steil told 27 News.

“Farmers share with me their support of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) to provide increased access to our trading partners’ markets. We’re proud to be home to the best dairy products in the world. I will continue fighting for Wisconsin farmers and urging Speaker Pelosi to get USMCA across the finish line.”

A new trade deal is in sight according to sources on Capitol Hill. Pelosi said Thursday Democrats plan to hold a caucus meeting to discuss trade negotiations.