For farmers in America’s Dairyland, it has been a tough year.
Kara O’Connor, the governmental relations director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said in 2017 the state lost around 500 dairy farms and are on track to have lost over 600 in 2018.
“The big trend in agriculture is that farmers are increasingly squeezed between high prices for input and low prices for what they produce, so they are spending more and more to earn less and less,” she said.
Guy Thoman, the owner of Lone Pine Dairy in Monticello, said after owning his farm for more than 50 years, he and his family could not make ends meet.
“I’ve always said I never wanted to get rich. All I’ve ever wanted to do was pay my bills and have a little left over,” Thoman said.
Thoman said the only way to combat the low market prices was to sell the farm.
“When you are only making half of what you should and try to keep the farm going, it doesn’t work,” he said.
Thoman and his family are not along in their struggles.
Rob Richard, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau senior director of governmental relations, said In 2017 the western district of Wisconsin had 28 chapter 12 bankruptcy cases filed, more than another other in the country.
Richard said Chapter 12 bankruptcy does not mean someone is losing their farm completely, but is a special classification that allows farms the ability to restructure debt.
He said in 2018 there were 30 additional cases filed in the western district.
Thoman said he hopes the person who buys their farm at least continues to use it as a dairy operation.
“Our main goal is try and keep cattle here. It’s not going to be our family, but at least we would feel good in our hearts,” Thoman said.
Thoman said they are used to the economic ups and downs of farming, but this time around they could not make it work.
“We are the only entity that you cannot price your product at the door. All we can do is get what they give us,” he said.
For Thoman and his family, selling their farm is not just letting go of a business, but a way of life.
“There will not be a lot us left, especially family farms. They are all basically going to corporate farms,” he said.