Wisconsin ag sees economic growth despite decline in dairy farms

Local News

MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) — The UW-Madison Center for Community & Economic Development has released its new report on Wisconsin’s agricultural industry.

Local 5’s Ag Report

According to the data, the state’s agricultural economy has continued to grow since 2012 despite a steep decline in the number of dairy farms.

The report, the Contribution of Agriculture to the Wisconsin Economy, shows the increase in the contribution of agriculture came through recent growth in food processing.

UW-Madison says farmers are facing a challenge in that on-farm activity and food processing are connected – if one does better, the other does better.

“The continued weak net farm income may put the food processing industry at risk. There is a clear balancing act between ensuring a healthy farm economy while continuing to promote growth in food processing,” the Center says.

The report, published once every five years, is based on data from 2017. Based on the data UW-Madison collected:

  • “All agriculture”, combined on-farm and food processing, contributes $104.8 billion to industrial revenues, 435,700 jobs, $22.5 billion to labor income, and $37.6 billion to total income.
  • On-farm activity contributed $22 billion to industrial sales/revenue, 154,000 jobs, $5.8 billion to labor income, and $9.8 billion to total income.
  • Food processing activity contributes $82.7 billion to industrial sales, 282,000 jobs, $22.5 billion to labor income, and $37.6 billion to total income.
  • Dairy – both on-farm and dairy processing – contributed $45.6 billion to industrial revenues, 157,100 jobs, $9.0 billion to labor income, and $15.1 billion to total income. Dairy processing accounts for roughly two-thirds of this contribution, according to the report.
  • Economic activity supported by agriculture resulted in state and local government tax revenues of $2.9 billion.
  • The growth seen in the contribution of agriculture in the state’s economy was in the food processing sectors.
  • Foreign exports of agricultural products accounted for $4.9 billion in industry revenue, 21,539 jobs, about $1.1 billion in labor income, and $1.8 billion in total income. This economic activity generated by foreign exports created $129.7 million in state and local tax revenues.

The report explains the economic contribution of agriculture has increased across all four measures from 2012 to 2017.

On-farm activity was not a major contributor to this increase and is likely a reflection of weak commodity prices in 2017. Dairy farm activity did see an increase in its contribution to the economy, but not to the same extent as the increase in dairy processing.

The majority of the increase in the contribution of agriculture came through recent strong growth in food processing.

To view the full report, click below:

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