Badger Herald Highlights Dilemma Faced By Wisconsin Farmers

A recent article in The Badger Herald took a deep dive into an issue that threatens the very identity of the Badger State — farm bankruptcies. As the title of the article suggests, there is enormous pressure in the agricultural industry, and on dairy farms in particular, to “go big or go bankrupt.” 

The article details how the rise of corporate-owned farms and the preference of large food producers to work with a smaller number of larger suppliers is crushing the small family farms that built Wisconsin into America’s Dairyland. 

The Data Shows Dairyland Is In Distress 

The data is quite shocking, even for those of us at Hanson & Payne, who spend the majority of our time working on Milwaukee area bankruptcy cases and keeping up with trends in the bankruptcy system

The article, quoting Family Farm Defenders Executive Director John Peck notes “Wisconsin lost half of its dairy farms since the turn of the century and that large, corporate-contracted factory farms currently control 25% of the market, despite accounting for less than five percent of the state’s dairies. In 1987, the average number of dairy cows per farm was 80. Just 15 years later, that figure reached 275.”

Despite the drop in the number of farms, the amount of milk produced is increasing. “Nationwide dairy production rose by a factor of roughly 100,000 lbs between 2005 and 2018, even as the U.S. lost over 10,000 farms during the same period.” 

Supply And Demand Are Pushing Family Farmers Out Of Business 

An increasing supply drives down the price small farmers can sell their milk for, which puts even more financial pressure on them. “The cost of producing milk in Wisconsin was $22.70 per hundredweight in 2020, yet the price of milk reached as low as 12.95 per hundredweight during the same year.” This is simply unsustainable. 

Experienced Bankruptcy Attorneys Serving Southeast Wisconsin

At Hanson & Payne, we have worked with numerous farmers in Southeast Wisconsin who are trying to figure out how to cope with the challenges facing the dairy industry. We layout all of the options that are on the table, and help our clients select the one that works best for them. 

Whether our clients want to regroup and try to weather the current storm, or sell out and retire somewhere warm, bankruptcy is often the best path forward. Bankruptcy is a tool that can be used to help farmers find their feet. There are even special bankruptcy laws that apply just to farmers. 

Hanson & Payne’s experienced team of Milwaukee area bankruptcy attorneys know how difficult it is to consider filing for bankruptcy when you are a farmer. Farming isn’t just a job, it is a way of life. We understand this, so we work with our farming clients to find an outcome that they are satisfied with on a personal level instead of forcing them to focus solely on financials. If your farm is in financial distress, don’t hesitate to contact us.