CADOTT — Les Danielson said he is already losing money while farming. He is receiving about $14.50 per hundredweight of raw milk, but he estimates it costs about $18 per hundredweight to break even.
Danielson, who farms 500 acres in the Chippewa County town of Goetz, north of Cadott, is concerned about what will happen if Mexico, Canada and China impose tariffs on dairy exports. He said the loss of those markets would be “catastrophic” for small farmers.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., along with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., hosted a roundtable discussion with dairy farmers Friday at Danielson’s farm. A day earlier, the U.S. Senate voted 86-11 to approve an $867 billion farm bill, and the two senators wanted to tell the farmers about measures included in the legislation.
“I want to start with an acknowledgement of how tough times are right now,” Baldwin told the 20 farmers who attended the meeting. “You have the added anxiety of how reliable the exports are. These uncertainties add to an anxiety and stress on our dairy market.”
Merkley said the bill features funding for market access, support for rural housing and rural broadband access, along with an extra billion dollars budgeted for dairy.
“We are working together to make sure farming stays strong,” Merkley said.
The House of Representative previously approved its version of the farm bill, so the two houses have to reach a compromise measure between the two pieces of legislation.
The farmers told Baldwin that Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms last year, and that number is likely to climb this year.
George Polzin, a rural Cadott farmer, said he is the fourth-generation farmer on his property, but he’s also likely the last. Polzin said farmers are struggling to find someone to buy their milk. It has led to farmers simply deciding to sell off their herds and quit.
“You can buy good cattle a lot cheaper than you can raise them,” Polzin said. “Nobody has a market; nobody has money. We’ve seen the highs and lows, and this time just feels different. I think we are going to lose a whole generation (of farmers).”
Baldwin and Merkley both serve on the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Agriculture, where Merkley is the ranking member.
Danielson said he has 35 cows, along with 200 acres of corn, 150 acres of beans and 50 acres of hay. He is a member of the Wisconsin Farmers Union and was thrilled when asked if Baldwin could host the roundtable at his farm.
“I’m really impressed that two senators are willing to come out to talk to dairy farmers,” Danielson said. “It’s a tough time with the trade wars.”