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.
 
Wisconsin's agricultural bounty is possible thanks in part to the state's voluminous supply of freshwater. At the same time, the use of this resource to grow crops and nourish livestock poses risks to the quality of these waters.
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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 United States Department of Agriculture census documents a large and diverse farming economy in Wisconsin, but also one in flux.
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.
A maelstrom of economic and demographic forces are hammering Wisconsin's dairy farmers. But what's causing such exceptional distress in one of the state's iconic industries?
While the economic and human toll wrought by low milk prices have been documented, the factors that determine those prices can feel enigmatic or perhaps even baffling for people outside of the industry.
At 5 a.m. it's still dark outside, but the lights are on in the barn at Cherryland Dairy in Door County.
Roberto Tecpile often puts in 70 hours a week at the Rosenholm dairy farm in Cochrane — a village in Buffalo County where winter days are short and can be bitterly cold.
As farms and other agricultural businesses around Wisconsin struggle to find and retain employees, many turn to seasonal worker programs to hire workers from outside the United States to fill empty positions.