When the second round of the Wisconsin Farm Support Program opened applications up to smaller farmers, Earl and Karin Liebetrau were among the thousands of farmers who decided to take the opportunity to apply.
The Liebetraus own a small farm between LaFarge and Viola, where they plant a little more than 70 acres of corn and soybeans on their 159-acre farm.
“My husband grew up on a farm and loves driving a tractor and doing all the field work necessary for planting” Karin said. “(It) gives him a lot of time to think about various projects to finish or start new ones.”
Last year the couple dealt with a lot of rain and were not able to get all the spraying of weeds done as expected. This year the weather conditions have been just the opposite, Karin said, and both of their crops are doing well but could use rain.
“It is pretty dry and our corn already shows denting which is early,”she said. “Hopefully we will get some rain in the next couple of days to help the dryness in the crops and elsewhere.”
For now, like the rest of the farmers who applied for the second round of funding with the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, the Liebetraus are left waiting.
“We don’t know if there would be any funding for us with the farm support program,” Karin said. “(We’ll) have to wait and see what they come up with.”
Gov. Tony Evers introduced the $50 million Wisconsin Farm Support Program in May to provide one-time direct payments to farmers struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. The funding is part of the money allocated to Wisconsin through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Farm groups in April asked Evers for $50 million in aid after calculating the economic impact of the pandemic on ag sectors.
The first round of Wisconsin Farm Support Program payments used about $41.6 million of the $50 million allocated for the program. As the program was originally created, applications were available to farmers who had a gross income between $35,000 and $5 million.
During the first round of the program, the Department of Revenue received 14,543 applications for the one-time direct payments from the Wisconsin Farm Support Program. The original plan was to offer payments of of between $1,000 and $3,500 on a sliding scale based on gross income. Instead, about 12,000 eligible farmers, based on the Department of Revenue’s findings, all received payments of $3,500 from the Farm Support Program, using about $41.6 million of the $50 million allocated for the program.
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski said the plan had always been to use all of the $50 million allocated for the program to provide some relief to farmers struggling during the global coronavirus pandemic following about five years of low commodity prices. So a second round of the program was created, opening eligibility up to more farmers.
Eligibility for the second round included farmers with between $10,000 in gross income and $5 million in gross income according to their 2019 tax filings.
Throughout the application period, which ended Aug. 24, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue received 4,672 applications from farmers hoping for a cut of the approximately $8.4 million remaining from the $50 million Wisconsin Farm Support Program.
As of Aug. 27, the Department of Revenue had already approved 3,249 applications, Romanski said in an Aug. 27 conference call with ag media. Of the applications already approved, about 45% fell in the $10,000 to $35,000 gross income range.
“There clearly was an interest and the need of farmers in that income range to get involved in the program,” Romanski said. “We’ve had applications throughout the entire spectrum of the program, but there was a substantial increase in the farmers with the lower gross income levels.”
Romanski said he expected the Department of Revenue would exhaust all remaining funds from the $50 million program with this second round of payments. He said payments would likely be based on a sliding scale, but the amount of each payment wouldn’t be known until all applications have been approved. Payments will be going out in mid-September, he said.