How exciting it is to make New Year’s resolutions. This annual event rings in the new year to start off better, do more or less of something, and focus on personal improvement so I can live happier than the previous year.
I have made resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, drink more water, spend more time with family and less time on the phone or computer. These intentions are good and healthy.
When I think of resolutions, I also think of resolutions that are made through our farm organizations and cooperatives at our annual meetings. These resolutions get proposed by members of the organization’s body to share with the hopes of making policies that will improve our farms, our communities and the future of our world. These resolutions become the policy that can affect our livelihood and how we go forward to continue to keep our family farms successful.
Every year in the United States and specifically in Wisconsin, we are losing record numbers of family farms.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, in Wisconsin, January started off with 6,116 dairy farms. This is 437 less than 2022, and in 2021, we lost 379 farms coming out of the pandemic when there was government money trying to assist farms through the struggle. Dairy farmers are less than 1% of the American population, and this is the result of catastrophic loss of the family farms throughout our nation.
I do want to recognize that some of the farms sold out due to farmers retiring without an heir or the lack of a family member’s interest to continue the legacy. A few decided not to rebuild after a weather calamity, be it a fire, tornado or flooding. The large majority of the loss of farms was clearly due to financial struggles to cover the cost of what it takes to farm in these volatile times. I am not saying anything new that dairy farmers haven’t heard before. We have had hard times, and 2023 is going to be similar with high inputs, low milk prices and worker shortages.
I am asking how many more barn doors need to close, how many more trucks full of cows need to leave, how many more heartbreaks can farmers take before we realize we need to find a way to stop the loss of our dairy farms?
If anything can be predicted, we can say that the past has shown we will be losing at least another family dairy farm every day in Wisconsin. Each and every dairy farm contributes to its community by supporting schools, grocery stores and churches. Dairy farms have a direct economic impact because of their dollars spent on the inputs it takes to feed and care for cows, equipment and land. When a farm goes out of business, the family is devastated, and our communities suffer too.
Looking at the past to predict the future, if we do not get our overproduction into control, we will continue to see farm loss. Basic economics say that when there is too much of any product, the price will drop. When the price drops, farmers need more money to pay the bills so we bring in more cows to make more milk. Where does the milk go? The cooperatives and processing plants have been scrambling for years to keep up with building new infrastructures and closing older inefficient plants to make cheese, powder and other great dairy products at a profit. They do an amazing job for all of us dairy farmers, but they are also creating policies for farmers to control the volume of milk. Maybe it is called a base program or a tier program that holds back the amount of milk to ensure milk is used and not wasted. It is a program that allows for growth but within a reasonable amount.
Both of Wisconsin’s farm organizations have dairy policy. Wisconsin Farmers Union supports a dairy growth management plan called the Dairy Revitalization Plan, and Wisconsin Farm Bureau supports finding approaches to reduce the risk for the dairy industry and also continued education of producers on the Dairy Revitalization Plan as based on the research by the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems. Other organizations such as the Holstein Association USA, National Dairy Producers Organization Inc., National Farmers Organization, Organization for Competitive Markets and the National Farmers Union also support the Dairy Revitalization Plan.
What is in store for dairy farmers in 2023 is more of the past until we can find a solution that slows down the dairy farm loss. It is our best interest to find a way to reduce the risk to all farms and look into this plan that has research behind it.
Look forward to 2023 with a possibility that the dairy industry could have a better future. Discover what the possibilities would be to your family farm by using online resources. The research has shown it could benefit all dairy farmers. Take a moment to learn how this could work and impact dairy farmers, processors and consumers.
Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.


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