Agriculture Archives for 2018-03

Dry and warmer weather a friend to farmers as planting season approaches

By Paul Schmitt

Area farmers are eagerly preparing for the upcoming planting season.  Recent warmer and drier weather has improved field conditions considerably, but Rich Olson of Olson Family Farm in Southern Door and a member of the Ag Advisory Board says farmers are still about a month away from planting crops.


Olson says in the meantime, farmers are busy making mechanical repairs and maintenance of farm equipment.  Soybeans and Corn crops will be planted any time between late April and early May, according to Olson.

Local organic farms could begin feeling the pinch from Texas megadairies

By Tim Kowols      

Farmers in Door and Kewaunee County hope large-scale organic dairies in Texas do not begin eating away at their bottom line or the quality of their product.  According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, six organic dairy farms in western Texas produced over 480 million pounds of milk in 2016, which was almost 25 percent more than Wisconsin's over 450 operations combined. This could lead to some dairy product producers to lean towards buying the cheaper product from Texas over local farms. Organic Valley has over 2,000 farms nationwide it gets its milk from, including seven in Door and Kewaunee Counties, and farmer Kevin Wilke of Sturgeon Bay says their concern is that everybody plays by the same rules.



Organic farmers are also seeing the price of their milk drop, which according to was at approximately $40 per hundredweight in 2016 and went down to $27 per hundredweight by the end of 2017.

Door County family fighting to keep small farm from disappearing

By Tim Kowols


Lagging milk prices are driving smaller farms out of business nationwide, forcing one Door County couple to go through unconventional means to keep their operation. Dale and Karen Cihlar's farm has been in the family since 1873, but a streak of bad luck with cows has decimated its milking herd to 23 while a new manure storage area to keep up with county ordinance nearly wiped out their savings. With lending institutions denying loans to small dairy farms due to low commodity prices like milk, the Cihlars joined several other families across the country relying on social fundraising sites to raise the necessary funds to keep their operations running. Dale Cihlar says he is not sure the best route to go to help farmers out, but knows something needs to be done to help close the gap between the price of milk and the cost of production.



Cihlar estimates milk prices need to be at least three dollars higher than the current $14.00 price per hundredweight for his operation to make a profit. According to the Associated Press, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection says the number of dairies has fallen 20 percent in the last five years, many of which had herds of 50 cows or less.

Maple syrup producers hitting stride in sap collection season

By Tim Kowols

                Maple syrup producers are off to a good start in Door and Kewaunee County as trees have been tapped and sap has been flowing over the last two weeks. Cold nights and warmer days have aided sap collectors in getting a little bit more than their average amount at this point of the season. Bill Roethle from Hillside Apples in Casco says the sugar content in the sap has been about average as well, making it not as hard for syrup producers to make their product.



Roethle expects higher than normal amounts to be collected this weekend as temperatures are expected to reach the high 40s to low 50s this weekend. Producers usually can collect sap until the beginning of April.

Kewaunee County UW-Extension turns attention to women's health on the farm during April session

By Tim Kowols

                       The growing stress of operating a farm is the inspiration for a first-time event for women next month being held by the Kewaunee County UW-Extension. According to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control, people in agriculture have the highest suicide rate among other professional groups. Commodity prices and family obligations are often to blame for women in particular not taking care of themselves according to Kewaunee County UW-Extension Agriculture Educator Aerica Bjurstrom. It is her hope the county's first Heart of the Farm event on April 11 is the first of many events creating a network of women going through the same struggles in the agriculture industry.



According to the St. Cloud Times, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer has sponsored a bill to support mental health services, which could be a part of a future, larger Farm Bill. You can learn more about the Heart of Women workshop taking place at the Rendezvous of Luxemburg next month by following this story online.

Local dairy farmers feel the squeeze as milk prices reach historic lows

By Tim Kowols

             The lowest milk prices by some metrics in 10 years are forcing Door and Kewaunee County dairy farmers to tighten their belts even more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average price nationwide for a gallon of milk at $2.96, which is down over 90 cents from 2008. This forces some farmers to operate at a net loss as milk prices have not kept up with the cost of production. Rich Olson from Olson Family Farms in Sturgeon Bay says they are not spending money if they do not have to for the operation.



Olson says it is important for farmers to keep a little bit of a reserve fund when milk prices find themselves trending upward like they did when they reached record highs in 2014. Dairy farmers did get some good news last month as several varieties of cheese increased in price over 2017 numbers according to the Dairy Market News.

Gallagher places focus on margin protection program, immigration for area farmers

By Tim Kowols

Wisconsin farms are expected to make approximately six percent less money in 2018 than last year according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison report, and Wisconsin District 8 Rep. Mike Gallagher hopes elements of a new farm bill can provide much-needed aid. The primary focus is on a margin protection program, which farmers buy into to protect themselves from lower than expected milk and feed prices. Rep. Gallagher says the formula does not make sense and does not necessarily insure against a "rainy day."



He also points out that the immigration debate also has an impact on area farmers.



According to the Farm Journal, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will likely weigh in on a new farm bill in April or May.

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