Wisconsin is known as the cheese capital of the United States but this year the state leads America in farm bankruptcies and dairy farms are leading those bankruptcies.
NPR says almost 10% of Dairy farmers in the state are likely to close in 2019. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that suicide rates have gone up in the last few years and experts are correlating those high numbers with the struggling farmers.
“You look at the weather, you look at the crops you can’t get off the field, you look at the bills you can’t pay,” Patty Edelburg, vice president of the National Farmers Union, told Yahoo Finance. “Bankruptcies are up. Wisconsin is attributed as the No. 1 bankruptcy in the nation right now, when it comes to dairy farmers. That number is up, I think, 24% from last year already. We’re losing two farms a day.”
The number of dairy farms has dropped 49% over the past decade plus int the state and U.S. Courts data shows the Western District of Wisconsin has the largest amount of Chapter 12 agricultural bankruptcies in 2017. To add to all of that from 2016-2018 Wisconsins dairy industry lost nearly 1,200 farms.
“Farming is such a stressful occupation by itself,” Edelburg said. “When you start adding financial stress on top of it, it’s just going to add more stress. Farmers can’t pay their bills, they have no extra money, they have people honing down their neck looking to pay bills. They’re going to banks and they can’t get loans. They’re literally being denied loans.”
“The bankers are the first and the forefront to see a lot of these things,” Edelburg said. “They’re delivering the bad news, and these farmers are dealing with it on that level.”
Recently Brad Pfaff the Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary nominee was denied his office after criticizing the state legislature’s budget committee because the refused to release monies that would help to deal with farmers mental health issues.
Pfaff noted that under their current budget the Department of Agriculture the Trade and Consumer Protection agency (DATCP) only had enough money to help about five farmers. Pfaff asked the Senate “Which five farmers will it be?” angering the Wisconsin Senate GOP who successfully voted agains Pfaff being confirmed for office.
“Governor Evers is right about one thing: farmers are struggling,” Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said in a statement. “Unfortunately, his pick for DATCP secretary was part of the problem, not the solution. He tried to place burdensome rules on Wisconsin farmers at a time they can least afford it and repeatedly engaged in partisan political games targeting the Legislature. The liberal Evers Administration has been no friend to farmers. The Senate will continue to take its role of oversight seriously and will exercise our responsibility to hold them in check.”