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.
 
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.
An increasing number of dairy farmers are adopting new sales practices, or are entirely shifting the focus of their business to keep themselves afloat and making money.
As the U.S. dairy industry continues to struggle in the face of ongoing low prices, federal policies intended to support farmers are attracting more attention.
As the dairy industry struggles with low prices in the face of a long-mounting milk glut, more farmers are finding that their woes are escalating.
Immigration as a top line issue for dairy farmers would have been unthinkable just a generation ago when Wisconsin's agricultural landscape was dominated by small and medium-sized dairy farms run by the families that owned them.
Trade frictions between the United States and Canada are a loud addition to a varied array of threats to Wisconsin dairy farmers' livelihoods.
Wisconsin's dairy industry is dealing with a big shock after one processor, Grassland Dairy Products Inc., dropped its contracts to buy milk from dozens of farms, citing a new Canadian policy that favors that nation's domestic milk producers.
Spring has brought gut-wrenching uncertainty to scores of dairy farms around Wisconsin. On April 1 a Clark County-based processor dropped their contracts, leaving them without a place to sell their milk.
Silvopasture is the practice of planting feed and grazing animals like cows, sheep or poultry in managed forest lands. It's a type of agroforestry that helps landowners provide livestock sheltered space, preserve soil quality and generate income from surplus forage and harvested trees.
Cattle can often be seen grazing in meadows around Wisconsin, but they may also be finding their meals in wooded areas.