Entire communities are falling apart as small farms go under, said John Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders, a Madison based advocacy group.
Grain mills, car dealerships and hardware stores suffer. The local tax base erodes. Churches and schools struggle or close.
“The multiplier effect on the rural economy is huge. It’s why you are seeing all these boarded-up small towns,” Peck said.
Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year, putting the total number of milk-cow herds at around 7,600 — down 20% from five years ago.