Series

A holiday dinner staple across the United States, cranberries are one of Wisconsin's signature agricultural products. The state's cranberry industry produces over half the world's supply of this tart and tiny fruit, generating nearly $1 billion in annual revenue. Wisconsin currently exports 35 percent of its cranberry yield, which has grown tenfold since the beginning of the 20th century. But an uptick in international production and abundant harvests in recent years have added financial stress on Wisconsin's producers, and falling cranberry prices have forced some growers out of the industry. At the same time, scientists are experimenting to expand the variety of cranberries available, and the industry is exploring new markets abroad.More
Years of budget cuts, increased state funding for private schools, Act 10, an increase in teacher retirements and a decrease in young educators entering the workforce have reshaped the face of public education in Wisconsin over the past decade. But these changes are amplified in rural school districts around the state. Many of Wisconsin's rural counties are slowly losing population, which results in shrinking school enrollment numbers and local tax bases, putting pressure on districts budgets. With a growing teacher shortage nationwide, schools in sparsely populated areas struggle to attract new staff. At the same time, districts across the state are increasingly turning to referendums to fill the funding gap.More
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.More
With the passage of Act 23 in 2011, Wisconsin joined a nationwide push by Republican-controlled state governments to require voters show photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Supporters of the law say it serves a protection against voter impersonation at any frequency, but have offered little specific evidence of this type of fraud being a problem. Multiple lawsuits at the state and federal level have challenged the law on constitutional grounds, with opponents saying it is an attempt to discourage voting among African Americans, college students and the elderly. The status of these court challenges has led to years of uncertainty over when the law would actually be in effect, how it would be enforced, and how the state would help voters who didn't already have photo ID comply.More
Manufacturing and agriculture have historically reigned supreme in Wisconsin's economy. But automation and consolidation in those sectors, and a shifting emphasis toward service- and technology-based industries, means the nature of work is changing rapidly. As workers across the state seek to start their careers, pursue better jobs, or find themselves struggling to reap the benefits of economic growth, they're looking for new opportunities wherever they might find them, including outside Wisconsin. As demographic and workforce shifts shape the state's future, political and business leaders are looking to attract and retain workers with advanced skills and education. These efforts are related to larger forces affecting Wisconsin's future, including population decline in rural areas, the role of higher education, and how public resources are used to develop the economy.More