Jonny Hunter (CC BY 2.0)

Series: The Dairy State Economy

Dairy is iconic in Wisconsin, with the production of milk and cheese a longstanding foundation of the state's identity and global reputation. This industry is a significant component of Wisconsin's economy, dependent on the fluctuations of international markets and tastes of consumers, with each affecting the livelihoods of farmers and their employees. Meanwhile, the structure of the business is changing, with the number of farms decreasing as their average size is increasing. Around Wisconsin, the direction of the dairy industry will define the future for producers and communities.
At 5 a.m. it's still dark outside, but the lights are on in the barn at Cherryland Dairy in Door County.
Low milk prices have been hitting farmers America's Dairyland hard, including among farmers in western Wisconsin. A Seneca feed store owner, Tammy Olson, organized a town hall meeting to bringing farmers and elected officials together to discuss these challenges.
Seventy-five dairy farmers in Wisconsin learned they would have to find a new processor to buy their milk due to a new tariff from Canada on certain dairy imports. Mark Stephenson with the UW-Madison Program on Dairy Markets and Policy discusses the market conditions dairy producers face.
Milk prices are cyclical, explained University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural economics professor Brian Gould. While Wisconsin dairy producers saw an all-time high in 2014, an extended drop in prices will have a negative effect on the state's economy.
Stagnant milk and crop prices are causing farmers to seek out new sources of revenue. Some farmers who are renting their land to put down solar panels in an effort to turn a profit.
WisContext reporter Will Cushman delves into what declining milk prices mean for Wisconsin dairy producers. He highlights specific counties in the state that have shown stark declines in herd numbers, and discusses what the outlook is for future milk prices.
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The Wisconsin Legislature voted to postpone a proposal to increase fees on concentrated animal feeding operations. Wisconsin Dairy Alliance president Cindy Leitner and Wisconsin's Green Fire executive director Fred Clark discuss the scope of the proposal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended its deadline for milk producers to apply for the Dairy Margin Protection Program — an insurance system to compensate producers if prices fall. What the program means for Wisconsin's dairy farmers?
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How might proposed tightening of U.S. immigration policy affect farmers in Wisconsin? Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism managing editor Dee Hall discusses about how farm workers in Wisconsin who are undocumented would fare under proposed changes to deportation policy.
A change in Canadian trade policy led a dairy processor to cancel its contracts with dozens of Wisconsin farmers. Wisconsin Farmers Union district director Chris Holman discuses the growing production of milk and what effect it has on small and large dairy farmers.