Selling the farm

Your daily dose of bittersweetness comes from KARE 11’s Boyd Huppert, who has covered the decision by farm families to cash out, thanks to low milk prices.

But this is different. This is the Huppert farm in River Falls, Wis.

“I’ve got a neighbor down the road three miles this way that sold his cows last Friday,” Huppert’s brother, Jay, says. “A guy down the road this way is selling his cows next week – we’re selling ours – it’s just kind of the trend, all the small farms are just quitting and moving on to something else.”

“We can borrow all kinds of money, but you know someday they’re going to want it back,” Jay says.

“The hardest thing he said to me was, he was afraid he was letting me down that he was quitting,” says his wife. “And I don’t feel that way at all. I want him to feel good and be happy.”

The auctioneer says he’s sold off a dozen farms so far this spring.

There’s a lot of this going around. Reporter Dylan Wohlenhaus says his family sold the farm, too.

  • MrE85

    In the past, you have seemed confused by farmers having record harvests yet still struggling financially. In the case of the small, family-owned dairy farm, the problem is pretty obvious. I heard the author of a book on the dairy industry say this isn’t just a problem in the Midwest, but worldwide.

  • Gary F

    Dairy farming is a tough business to be in, even when the markets are good. My cousins were dairy farmers. They always had to leave the party or event to go home and milk. They could never stay late because they had to get up before school to milk. They never did any school sports or activities, because they had to get home to milk. They rarely took a family vacation. It’s a tough game to play, especially if the milk markets are bad. Farming is a business which too many factors of making a profit are out of your hands.

    I do think I’d love to leave the city life and take up farming but I know I couldn’t make a living off it. My parents both grew up on farms and I spent many a summers picking stones, gathering eggs, cutting corn out of bean fields, round baling, square baling, and reading Walace’s Farmers magazine. Its still a dream.

  • Jim in RF

    No small part of this is because 35% of the corn crop goes to producing ethanol, which supports cash crop farmers but hurts beef and dairy producers. Ethanol from corn (separate from ethanol from switchgrass, etc.) has to be one of the craziest special-interests-run-politics stories ever. Horrible policy for most, but very good for a few.

    • Cosmos

      I don’t understand how 35% of the corn crop going toward ethanol production affects dairy prices. Can you explain this a little more?

      • Glsai

        I’m not an expert, but I assume it is that 35% of corn going to ethanol means that less is freely available for all the other uses. Combining that with a normally stable demand means the cost of corn is going to go up. Increasing the cost to feed your dairy cows means you have to raise the price of your dairy output to try and stay even.

        • Jim in RF

          My sense too – supply and demand. Almost all corn goes to either ethanol or animal food. Less going to ethanol would mean lower livestock feed prices and higher dairy farm profits. I’m sure there’s some other issues like acreage being planted in other crops and lower farm diesel prices, but pretty cut and dried.

          • CB

            However, the ethanol demand is artificially created so row-crop farmers can get higher prices for their corn, so if you bottom out corn prices, you’ll still have farmers selling. It’s almost like the industry was set up to serve ends other than a free market….

          • Joseph

            And also, that would have not much effect, since the price of milk itself is so low from a major over-production of milk, thanks to the industrialization of the industry.