Wisconsin farmers want a say before farm bill renewal
Though they persevered, the Hinchleys are concerned about the dwindling family farm industry.
“Last year, we lost more than 400 family farms in Wisconsin,” Tina Hinchley, co-owner of Hinchley Dairy Farm, told Spectrum News. “A lot of people think those are just the little ones, they come in all sizes.”
Generations of Hinchleys have managed their Cambridge, Wis., dairy farm. since the 1950s. And as his operation grew, many around him went out of business.
“There was a farm on every road in township,” said co-owner Duane Hinchley. “My uncle [in 1963] had collected milk, and there were 56 farms from the town of Deerfield to Edgerton, which is 13 miles on one road: State Highway 73. At that time, [there were] 120,000 [dairy farms] then the contraction is immense”.
In 2020, Wisconsin farmers had the most Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings in the country for the past decade. According to USDA data, the number of dairy cow herds in Wisconsin fell from 7,292 in January 2020 to 6,116 in January 2023. Those losses were not necessarily due to bankruptcy, but farmers often sell herds and go off the grid. industry.
“We need to make sure that we can maintain all of our dairy farms,” Tina said. “We are less than one percent of the population in charge of feeding delicious and nutritious dairy products to the entire country and even abroad. So our role in what’s happening here is critical.”
The Hinchleys believe that safety nets like the USDA’s Dairy Margin Coverage Program and the relief provided through pandemic-era legislation have been crucial factors why so many struggling farms today have stayed afloat. . But rising prices could further threaten the financial security of those companies.
“With the inflationary pressure right now and the introduction of this new farm bill, there will be a lot of budget cuts,” Duane said. Dollars.”
Congress and the White House agree to a farm bill every five years to support the agricultural industry and federal nutrition programs. The current bill will expire this year. As lawmakers begin working on his replacement, the Hinchleys say help for farmers’ operating costs should be included.
“We don’t have the financial protection that we did a decade ago with these rising feed costs,” Duane said.
Addressing the impacts of climate problems is also top of mind, they say, and will require federal help. And since the worker shortage is an industry-wide problem, they are asking Congress to address immigration in the massive legislative package.
“There are a lot of farmers who use undocumented workers,” Tina told Spectrum News. “There has to be a path to citizenship. They have been working here, their children have been born here. They are essential workers.”
The list of farmers’ needs in the new bill doesn’t end there, but they hope lawmakers will give them input when the time comes.