MILWAUKEE — It’s been called “full-throttle agriculture,” where production surges, markets buckle and farms are left tangled in the wreckage.
Chris Holman, who farms near Stevens Point, Wis., says it’s been going on for years, and it’s getting worse.
A regional director for the group Wisconsin Farmers Union, he points to the recent crisis in which dozens of dairy farms lost their milk buyer and were nearly forced out of business in a marketplace flooded with their product.
The buyer, Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood, said it dropped the farms May 1 because it lost millions of dollars of business in Canada.
All but a couple of the Wisconsin farms that had contracts with Grassland have since found another milk buyer.
Yet Holman says Canada was wrongly blamed for the crisis. He and others argue the situation stemmed from U.S. agriculture running at full-speed, nonstop, regardless of the consequences.
He points to state programs, such as “Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20,” as having compounded the problem.
“Beyond pushing dairy farmers to reach 30 billion pounds of milk production a year by 2020, the initiative — with no sense of irony — provides grants to improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s dairy industry,” Holman said.
In 2016, Wisconsin dairy farmers produced slightly more than 30 billion pounds of milk, or 3.5 billion gallons, for the first time.
While the number of Wisconsin dairy farms has been declining for years – to about 9,230 now from 14,265 in 2007 — milk production has increased as farms have become bigger and more efficient
The new production milestone came even as the global market was awash in dairy products and prices paid to farmers were depressed due to the oversupply.
“Full-throttle agriculture” has some farmers drowning in milk.
“When you have farmers themselves…