Pick the indicator, and it points to troubling times for the Midwest’s dairy industry. Wisconsin, which has led the nation in farm bankruptcies three straight years, lost 450 dairy farms in the first half of 2019 alone — on top of the 590 that closed in 2018. In all of this region’s major dairy-producing states, too, the number of licensed dairy herds is falling, by as much as 13 percent in Michigan (see map).
A worldwide surplus of milk, combined with the impact of tariffs, has led to multiple years of unfavorable market conditions for dairy farmers: Farmgate prices dropped precipitously in 2014, to below $17 cwt, and have remained down and below the cost of production, $20 cwt. (Cwt is a unit measurement equal to 100 pounds of milk).
Can states help turn around, or at least stabilize, the situation for dairy farmers?
This year, legislators in two of the nation’s top dairy-producing states have sought ways to help, including putting new dollars into price supports (Minnesota) and research (Wisconsin).
The term “ecotourism” is most often associated with visits to undisturbed natural areas, but perhaps it’s time to broaden that definition — to include enjoying the scenery and studying the plants and animals found on America’s farmlands.
A perfect example of this is occurring in west-central Kansas.
Tourists flocked this spring to the area’s ranches that provide a habitat to the lesser prairie chicken, a species of grouse known for the males’ elaborate calls and showy displays of reddish-orange air sacs while performing spring mating dances.
Chronic wasting disease already is a problem in the 24 states (including all but Indiana and Ohio in the Midwest) and two Canadian provinces where it has been detected in free-ranging deer, elk or moose. This year in Minnesota, though, legislators have been exploring just how much bigger the problem could become — if the disease continues to spread and/or if it is transmitted to humans.
“It has the potential to change hunting as we know it,” Minnesota Rep. Rick Hansen says. “As a hunter, I am concerned about field processing and consumption of deer, and other hunters should be too.”
No human is known to have gotten ill from eating venison from a CWD deer, but that might not always be the case, a state expert warned lawmakers at a legislative hearing earlier this year in Minnesota.