Struggling Wisconsin Dairy Sector Could Shift Votes From Trump in 2020

February 25, 2019, 5:03 PM UTC
Dairy cows graze in pasture on farm, Milton, Wisconsin
Dairy cows graze in pasture on farm, Milton, Wisconsin. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Wisconsin is losing dairy farms at an unprecedented rate, with 700 closing just last year, or two daily—a dismal situation that could figure into the 2020 presidential election.

America’s Dairyland may have helped give President Donald Trump an edge in the 2016 election, but the state’s declining dairy sector could shift votes away from him, particularly since his tariff wars have hit the dairy industry hard.

A precipitous decline in milk sales and prices is at the root of dairy farm troubles. Milk prices are about to hit their lowest mark in the last 50 years, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Trump did extend federal help to Wisconsin farms in a $10 million bailout program.

However, the assistance isn’t nearly enough for farmers to stay afloat. A 55-cow farm, for instance, might receive a one-time payment of $725, while losing anywhere from $36,000 to $48,000.

The state has 8,000 dairy herds, a 40% decline in the last decade.

“We are looking at a short-term washout of 20% of Wisconsin dairy farm milk income on a monthly basis. That’s how dangerous this mess is,” Pete Hardin, who publishes a dairy industry magazine in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Smaller dairy farms are struggling the most, and economic hardship is contributing to a surge in depression, suicide, and suicidal thoughts among farmers, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Calls to the Wisconsin Farm Center, a service that helps distressed farmers, were up last year, including a 33% increase in November and December. “There’s a major increase in their stress level,” Angie Sullivan, supervisor of the farm center, and part of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection told the Journal.