Wisconsin dairy farmer utilizes government aid, milk insurance
July 1, 2020
Taking advantage of available agriculture funding isn’t relying on the government to survive; it’s simply using what’s being offered to keep farming operations in business, said Footville, Wisconsin dairy farmer Steve Case.
Case milks about 140 cows with his wife, Liz, and their son, Craig. They also operate just over 300 acres of cropland. He said while he and his family do not rely on government funding to support their farm, they’ve made the decision to take advantage of it if it’s available. He encourages other farmers to do the same.
“If I don’t take advantage of this money, it’s just going to go to somebody else,” he said. “And I’m not saying I’m struggling; maybe I’m just more on top of things than the average person. And I have my wife and son also keeping tabs on our financials with me, so we communicate often on how to run the farm.”
Case and his family have used the Dairy Margin Coverage milk insurance program for the last few years and they’ve now applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Farmers and ranchers whose operations are directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for this funding from the United States Department of Agriculture.
“I feel this is a big relief even though I know this is going to be taxable money,” Case said. “It’s not like I’m going to run out and buy a new tractor or something. The government will get its money back somehow.”
The program is part of the CARES Act and the Commodity Credit Corporation. It provides financial assistance to commodity producers to help them cope with declining sales and increasing market expenses. Applications are being accepted through the Farm Service Agency through August 28, 2020.
The Case family applied for CFAP funds as soon as the application window opened at the end of May. Case said the application was simple and he appreciates the government finally looking out for farmers.
“With the agricultural struggles over the last several years, this money is a long time coming,” he said. “It’s really helping us out big time.”
Case said he and his family make a farm budget every year. Part of that process is figuring out what the milk price will hopefully be going forward and then being realistic and reasonable about how to pay bills throughout the year.
“The first step to managing money for us is to maintain a savings account,” he said.
To be eligible, producers must have suffered a price decline of five percent or more, said Sandy Chalmers, state executive director of the USDA-Farm Service Agency. Assistance is also provided for producers impacted by disruptions in the markets and demand.
“Milk production is one of the commodities covered by the program and that’s good news here in the dairy state of Wisconsin,” Chalmers said. “This assistance comes at a critical time for America’s farmers and ranchers. Farm Service Agency is focused on getting the assistance to our producers as quickly as possible.”
Case worries some farmers either already have or will come to rely on the government for survival assistance. If farmers are willing to read through the program requirements to check eligibility, they can learn about the program and make educated decisions about their farm’s finances, he said.
“The only bad part about this is that when things get tough, people just start saying things like ‘I’m not worried, the government will come through’ and they did,” he said. “But that’s a bad habit to get into.”
For information about the program or to apply, visit https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.