Wisconsin Has Lost 10 Percent of Its Farms Since 2017

Feb 21, 2024

By Robert D'andrea

While Wisconsin remains an agricultural powerhouse, the number of farms has decreased greatly in recent years. 

Wisconsin lost 10 percent of its farms and 30 percent of its dairy farms in a five-year period, according to 2022 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released last week. 

The latest census tracks changes between 2017 and 2022. The data shows Wisconsin’s remaining farms have more land, higher profits and larger herds. 

“Some farms have closed their doors, some farms have consolidated, some farms are getting larger. Those are all things that we’ve seen as trends,” said Jason Mugnaini, executive director of governmental relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

“But there’s definitely some bright spots in terms of the resilience of farmers and their ability to adapt to changing times,” he said. 

Wisconsin’s agricultural products had a market value of nearly $16.7 billion in 2022, ranking 10th in the nation. That’s up from $11.4 billion in 2017. 

Wisconsin had 58,521 farms in 2022, down nearly 10 percent from 2017. There were 6,216 dairy farms, down from about 9,000 in 2017. 

The average farm size was 236 acres in 2022, the largest in more than two decades. 

Dairy Business Association CEO Tim Trotter said that kind of consolidation is occurring in many industries. 

“People are looking for efficiencies… They know that if they want to be in business, they have to lower their cost,” he said. “So one way of doing that is scaling your business to be a little bit larger than what maybe what your father had.”

Julie Keown-Bomar is the executive director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. She said consolidation in farming has been happening for decades, and is the result of policy choices. 

“The Farm Bill started to shift dramatically in the 1980s, supporting larger, bigger-is-better kinds of strategies. And now we’re seeing the results of that,” she said. 

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