The Status of Wisconsin Agriculture report is in its 25th year of publication, although it began as a one-time publication sparked by the Farm Crisis in 1986. This year's report makes some observations about Wisconsin agriculture in that time.
"Agriculture has been a big supplier of manufacturing jobs, particularly in the cheese sector," said Ed Jesse, the report's editor and a professor emeritus in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at UW-Madison. "It also supports meat-packing operations and elevators and fabricators of grain.
"In this day and age when the buzz word is jobs, I think Wisconsin has done a nice job in that regard," Jesse said.
Another big change since that time, Jesse said, is in defining farming. With more hobby and retirement farms, average farm size has declined by 20 acres per farm between 1986 and 2009. The total agricultural land base has shrunk by 13.5 percent.
"We've really had a change in agriculture in the sense of asking, ‘Who's a farmer?' " Jesse said. "With half our farmers having a job outside farming as their principal occupation, that kind of changes the definition of farming and the whole farming sector."