Family Reunion in Wisconsin
My research assistant, "Barbzilla," (a nickname she earned after yet one more task completed and is synonymous with give-her-the-answer-she-will-get-it-sooner-or-later-anyway!) flew to Milwaukee and then toured the primary and secondary roads to La Crosse last week enroute to her family reunion. She returned to report on the state of agriculture in Wisconsin. But first, she said she just had to tell me how impressed she was with the roads. "They sure know how to pave a road in the Badger State!" When I asked her what else stood out, she said buried power lines, windmills, fire hydrants with flags, lots of trains, big rain storms with hail and birch trees. And everybody has a garage!
The State of Ag in Wisconsin
"Barbzilla" said that the national trend seems to be continuing in Wisconsin. The big farms are getting bigger. Just down the road from her cousin Steve, a 150-head dairy farm recently expanded to 400 head. So milking is becoming a 24-hour business. Her cousin noticed that many small farms are selling out to become recreational areas like wildlife hunting refuges or snowmobile parks. The sad part is that so many old barns and silos with wonderfully unique architecture and stonework are being torn down. A part of our heritage is disappearing.
Another trend "Barbzilla" noted was the building of golf courses. She said it was not unusual to drive by the 9th hole of a brand new course and see an old barn and silo sitting there.
Lack of rain has caused about a 10 -20% forecasted loss for corn and soybeans in that area. With rains moving in last weekend, farmers hope to curb their losses. Corn in most fields was about chest high. Wisconsin still holds test beds for most seed and grain companies, so they need the rain!
Same Problems, Different Industry
Family reunions always yield the latest news in the family. It was interesting to note that "Barbzilla’s" uncle, involved the hauling and excavating business with 3 sons, suffers from the same transition questions as most other ag businesses. Who is going to be in charge eventually? You need to hire a team of advisors for transition. A banker, lawyer, accountant, transition planner, and maybe even an investment broker, can give you a written, executable plan of succession, with a timeline that will take all the guesswork, and certainly the arguing, out of the formula.
Highlights of a Great Trip to the Midwest
"Barbzilla" likes to call Wisconsin home. For anyone, going back home and seeing family is always fun. But those of us who love rural America, there is something about finding hollyhocks along cement walls of age-old barns. And how about flying along country roads past row after row of leafy green corn stalks. It truly is good for the soul.
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Editors' note: Dave Kohl, Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He currently is on sabbatical and working with the Royal Bank of Canada.
To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures click here
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