Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland but as Gov. Tony Evers mentioned in his State of the State speech on Wednesday night, the industry is struggling.
Gov. Evers says between 2011 and 2018, Wisconsin lost about a third of its dairy farms.
At the State of the State address, Governor Evers announced a three part plan and called for a special legislative session next week to take up a package of bills that would address some of the challenges faced by dairy farmers.
The package of bills include legislation that would increase Wisconsin’s dairy exports to 20% of U.S. milk supply by 2024, increase staffing at UW Extension, increase farmers’ access to mental health resources and initiate a Farm to Fork program that will connect farmer’s food products with universities, technical colleges, hospitals and local businesses.
Gov. Evers says he is also working with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to establish the Office of Rural Prosperity and creating a blue ribbon commission.
Chippewa Falls dairy farmer, Jeff Peck, says he is glad to see the governor acting to support farmers.
“We have our businesses and co-ops and farmers who are out there day after day, good days and bad days, so highlighting the important work they do to maintain a safe and affordable food supply is a really good step,” said Peck.
At Peck Farms, he says he makes the majority of his income from selling milk produced by his 175 dairy cows. He says since 2014, it’s been difficult and economic challenges have forced him to make sacrifices on the farm. One of his buildings collapsed in March and he has been unable to repair it along with having to wait to replace aging machinery.
He ended up buying a price floor for to sell his milk because of the inconsistent prices.
“You can put a floor on my price and I know I am going to make it another year but that’s not a good plan for a business to survive a year at a time so having some sustainable market would be the best thing for everyone because then we would feel comfortable to invest in our animals and people and machinery and that would spur development through our whole local economy,” Peck says.
Peck said he blames an oversupply of milk in the state for causing low price value.
“Every time there is a decent price it only lasts for a little bit and then the lows last for years it seems like so something has to be done about managing the supply,” said Peck.
But while dairy farming continues to have its challenges, Peck said he is in it for the long haul.
“It’s what really makes Wisconsin great. It’s what people look for and want to see here and I’m going to do my part to keep fighting back but the markets at some point do have to work with us.” . “It’s not just a job you can walk away from it’s really your whole life.”