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Status of Wisconsin Ag Report: Farm Income Improved in 2010
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/17/2011

Agricultural economists and other faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural Life Sciences say corn and soybean growers in the state couldn't have had a better year in 2010, while milk producers did a lot better financially than they did a year earlier. According to their 2011 edition of the Status of Wisconsin Agriculture report, which is an overview of the financial environment in Wisconsin's farming sector, net farm income nearly doubled in 2010 at $1.5 billion, up $700 million from 2009, but $500 less than what it was in 2008 and $1.1 billion below the record set in 2007.

"For Wisconsin corn and soybean producers, 2010 was a fabulous year in nearly every respect--early planting, timely and abundant rains, warm temperatures and early harvest with little or no drying required. Best of all, they had plenty to sell at good prices," the report says.

The state's dairy farmers received some much-needed relief from the devastating milk prices of 2009. The state's average all-milk price increased by about $3 to $16.18 and farmers sold three percent more milk. But the added income wasn't nearly enough to rebuild the nearly nine percent loss in net worth that they suffered in 2009.

Looking ahead, dairy farmers will face tough sledding for the first half of 2011, the report notes. Milk prices will be down in the wake of a late-2010 production surge, while feed prices will be up significantly. But things will improve in the second half, so the average price for 2011 will be about the same as it was in 2010.

And while corn and soybean farmers can't hope to see a repeat of 2010's perfect growing season, they should fare well from a price standpoint in 2011. USDA forecasts record prices for both corn and soybeans.

The report also noted that idea weather conditions last year caused disease problems in cranberries, potatoes, snap beans, green beans and sweet corn; and an untimely frost cut the apple crop by 20 percent and the cherry crop by 46 percent. Feed costs were down, but feeder cattle and hogs, dairy heifers and poults cost more. And fertilizer and pesticide prices were down, but these were offset by a 22 percent jump in fuel costs.

A recent upward trend in Wisconsin cow numbers and total milk production continued in 2010 and is expected to do so in 2011. The state's dairy herd averaged about 1.262 million cows in 2010, up about 50,000 cows from 2009. Per cow production increased 2.7 percent, and total production exceeded 26 billion pounds, up 3.2 percent. In the mid-2000s, the state reversed a troubling decline in milk production and cow numbers that began in 1989.

Electronic copies of the 2011 report are available online at www.aae.wisc.edu/pub.


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