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Family dairy farms struggle in Wisconsin for another year

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It’s not the best year for the family farm in Wisconsin, especially not dairy farms.

Over 400 are estimated to have closed in the first eight months of this year.

Blame it on another year of rock bottom milk prices, says Wisconsin Farmers Union president and Westby dairy farmer, Darin von Ruden

“Farmers can’t continue to stay in business with the prices they’re receiving for their milk right now,” Von Ruden said.

Despite the attention focused recently on the effect of an ongoing trade war, Von Ruden says, after the fourth year of non-sustainable milk prices, the last few months of tariff battles probably haven’t had that big of an impact on farmer dairy economics.

“The tariffs have had a little impact but probably not the long-term impact that we’ll see in a year or so depending on how the trade talks continue to go,” Von Ruden said.

Wisconsin is on pace to see the most dairy farms shut down since 2013. Through the first eight months of this year, 429 family dairy farms shut down.

Milk prices aren’t sustainable and the solution is anything but simple, Darin von Ruden says.

“We need to look at a different mechanism for either pricing milk,” he said. “Or we have to figure out a supply management program or an inventory management program to make sure that the consumers have an adequate supply of food but also farmers receive a fair price for the products they produce.”

von Ruden says the solution will likely be found in farmers better managing inventories and production in order to have more control of pricing

“We need to be able to set that price before the product actually leaves the farms,” he said. “That way, we have an understanding of what we’re going to receive and therefore you can budget and hopefully keep farms more profitable.”

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