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A quarter-century of reporting the status of Wisconsin agriculture

Be careful what you take on, because sometimes “short-term” projects last a little longer than you think. In January 1986, a group of CALS ag economists published what they assumed would be a one-time report report on the financial problems that were then besetting the ag sector in Wisconsin and the rest of the nation. This week, they’re releasing the 2011 edition of the Status of Wisconsin Agriculture, a situation and outlook report that has been issued annually with the exception of a three-year hiatus in the late 1990s. The report will be released on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at the fourth annual Wisconsin Agricultural Economic Outlook Forum at the Pyle Center.

Two of the authors of the original publication—dairy marketing and policy specialist Ed Jesse and farm finance specialist Bruce Jones—have contributed to every report. Jesse has been the main driver behind the project, serving as editor as well as author. Bob Mitchell of the CALS external relations program has copy-edited every issue. Others have contributed to most of them, including Bill Dobson (macroeconomics), Pat Luby (livestock), Bob Cropp (dairy ) and Randy Fortenberry (corn and soybeans).

Other authors of the situation and outlook articles in the 2011 report include UW-River Falls livestock specialist Brenda Boetel, CALS grain marketing outreach specialist David Moll, CALS director of dairy policy Mark Stephenson, UW-Madison horticuture faculty members A .J. Bussan (vegetables) and Rebecca Harbut (fruits). The report also includes a series of articles by research teams in the Program on Agricultural Technology Studies, led by economists Brad Barham and Jeremy Foltz. Those articles, which are based on surveys of Wisconsin dairy farmers, look at issues related to changes in dairy farm structure, farmers’ response to the dairy financial crisis of 2009, opinions on farm policies and their level of health insurance coverage.

The 2011 report looks quite different from the 1986 edition, which was composed in the word processing lab of what was then the Department of Agricultural Economics—one step up from a typewriter. The current report was designed by CALS graphic artist Diane Doering, with a 4-color cover featuring a photo by CALS photographer Wolfgang Hoffmann.

An electronic copy of report  will be available as of Wednesday on the publications page of the Agricultural and Applied Economics website.

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