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Serving: WI

Distressed Farmers Seek Aid

Milk prices are driving dairy farmers to seek help.

The Wisconsin Farm Center has been inundated with calls from distressed farmers looking for financial assistance and other help, says Frank Friar, economic development consultant and farm financial adviser.

Most of the calls, Friar says, are coming from dairy farmers across the state who are being squeezed by low milk prices, high feed bills, and high fertilizer and crop input expenses.

Farm Center Director Paul Dietmann says the Farm Center is receiving 12 to 15 calls a day, up from three to four calls a day last year at this time.

"When the milk prices were good, the calls were of a different nature," he says. "Young farmers were calling about farm business plans and how to get started in farming."

The Farm Center, which is part of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, offers a mediation and arbitration program, access to mental health counseling and other services along with financial advice. Dietmann says many farmers wait too long to get help and some have reached a point where they can't feed their cows or their families.

"The milk price dropped so far so fast that nobody had time to prepare for it," Dietmann says.
Friar acknowledged that many of the farmers they are working with will probably not be able to continue farming.

"Some of the later career farmers are choosing to hang it up and sell the cows. Some of the younger ones simply have no choice but to quit. Their equity is gone and they can't survive."

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