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.
 
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.
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.
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.
At least one Wisconsinite drives to Nebraska and back to buy Ireland's most famous non-alcoholic export: grass-fed Kerrygold butter. Fans can't buy this product in Wisconsin because a state law enacted in the 1970s.
Over the past several years, a pair of trends have been putting pressure on the dairy industry in the United States.
As markets for artisan and specialty cheese grow, a new national survey found many cheesemakers have a hard time staying in operation.
To create the concept of "milk" as people know it today, the U.S. dairy industry exerted considerable energy — spending a lot of money to develop new technologies and build political clout.
Wisconsin dairy producers saw an increase in milk prices in December, reaching the highest price in the last two years.
High prices are a signal from customers indicating that they demand more product. In 2014, dairy farmers in Wisconsin and the rest of the U.S. received the highest prices for milk on record, signaling a demand that the world wanted more dairy products.