FOX47 NEWS - Dairy Industry Future

Jeff Angileri
Mar 18, 2009, 9:24 PM

Dairy farmers across Wisconsin are trying to survive a milk price plunge, and the harsh realities of the recession. At their annual conference in Madison Wednesday, they talked about the future of the industry.

A year or so ago the prices were really good, our input costs were high at the same time, said MaryAnn Barlass, Janesville dairy farmer.

Last February, dairy farmers earned $19.20 for every 100 pounds of milk. That dropped to $10.30 this year, according to the USDA.

Most farmers agree modernization is key to spurring economic growth, but it's also expensive -- thousands of dollars to upgrade a small farm -- millions for a large operation.

Wisconsin's 13,500 dairy farms have invested about a billion dollars to modernize in the last 5 years, and they plan to invest a billion in the next 5 years, said Gov. Jim Doyle.

Doyle introduced two new tax credits in his budget last month, giving dairy producers 10 percent back on any money spent on modernization. Farmers say it's a good incentive.

A lot of people want to see Wisconsin as a high tech state. Dairy is high tech -- dairy is business, dairy is family -- that's why we've invested in our farm and our cheese factory, said Debbie Crave, of Crave Brothers Dairy.

Last week, Doyle also proposed spending $6.6 million to help construct two digesters in Dane County, which would process farm manure to produce electricity and fertilizer. Like your financial portfolio, farmers say, diversity is key to survival.

Tractor driving, plating crops, raising cows, dairy genetics -- you could do a number of things at both our family businesses, Crave said.

Farmers at the conference also talked about the importance of communication technology. The economic stimulus bill includes more than $2.5 billion for the USDA to create high speed internet access in rural areas.


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