Farmers share milk woes with state ag secretary

Posted at 3 p.m. on June 6, 2018

The Brillion News

A complete story on the crisis in Wisconsin’s dairy industry will appear in the June 14 print edition of The Brillion News.

WRIGHTSTOWN – State agriculture secretary Sheila Harsdorf and State Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, held a 90-minute discussion with area farmers, extension agents and technical college ag instructors on Wednesday, June 6, at the Wrightstown Village Hall.

It came one day after Harsdorf and Gov. Scott Walker announced creation of a new State Dairy Task Force to address the problems faced by dairy farmers in Wisconsin after four years of rock-bottom milk prices, a glutted milk markets, and dairy plants cutting back on their milk purchases.

One farmer said that milk from Michigan farms is being trucked to Wisconsin and sold to dairy processing plants here for far less than what Wisconsin farmers get for their milk. He also said that dairy plants encouraged over-production and now say they don’t want the milk.

An ag instructor from NWTC said small farms are being hurt the most.

One farmer said the state is promoting large dairy farms and they are gobbling up small, family farms. She predicted that within a few years, the dairy industry here will be dominated by as few as 15 mega farms with tens of thousands of cows each – and small family farms will be gone.

Harsdorf said there is a problem with radical animal rights groups advocating against all animal agriculture, including dairy.

Brown County ag agent Liz Binversie said she polled several farmers prior to Wednesday’s meeting and got several significant comments, including:

  1. Better marketing by the dairy industry is needed to support market growth, especially out of state;

  2. Permits farmers need from the DNR are problematic;

  3. More dairy plants are needed in the state to buy and process Wisconsin milk.

Harsdorf said the State Dairy Task Force probably won’t have any final recommendations until a year from now, with no action by the state legislature prior to its Fall 2019 session. The task force’s first meetings will likely be held later this summer.

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