Wisconsin’s Agricultural Economy

According to 2018 statistics from the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), Wisconsin is home to about 7,600 dairy farms, more than any other state, and 1.28 million cows.​ The dairy industry itself contributes $45.6 billion to Wisconsin’s economy each year. A recent news article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel though indicates that in the first half of 2019, a total of 449 dairy farms were lost in Wisconsin alone which is at one of the fastest rates since the Great Depression.

A recent report from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) based on data from 2017, The Contribution of Agriculture to the Wisconsin Economy, showed a shift of economic growth over the past 5 years from dairy farming to food processing in Wisconsin. Food processing includes dairy, vegetables, fruit, beef, pork, poultry and other products. An analysis of the UW report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does emphasize that regardless of growth seen in food processing, the demise of farms is worrisome because they are the lifeblood of many rural communities and support food processors as well.

In response to the decline in dairy farms in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 was created in June 2018 as a joint effort between DATCP and the UW System to study the Wisconsin dairy industry with the goal of making recommendations on actions needed to maintain a viable and profitable dairy industry in Wisconsin. The task force released their final report in June 2019.

Access to the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0’s final report is available through the Wisconsin Digital Archives along with other agricultural reports and statistics for research:

Blog post written by: Abby Swanton, Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning