2013 Wisconsin ag outlook: Watching the sky with fingers crossed

”There is always uncertainty surrounding any forecast, but there may be more of it in 2013.” That caveat punctuated the chapter authored by CALS dairy analysts Mark Stephenson and Bob Cropp in this year’s Status of Wisconsin Agriculture report, but it was repeated in some forms by all of the UW economists and commodity specialists who contributed to the report and presented at last week’s Wisconsin Agricultural Economics Outlook Forum.

“I can’t stress it enough,” says agricultural economist Ed Jesse, CALS professor emeritus who edited the report and authored the executive summary. “What happens next year depends on whether it rains.” The state needs to get about 12 inches of rain from the end of harvest until the planting season begins to recharge soil moisture reservoirs, according to CALS soil scientist Bill Bland. “I’m optimistic that we’ll get it,” he told the 180 attendees at the forum, held Jan. 23 at the Pyle Center under the sponsorship of the CALS-based Renk Agribusiness Institute.

Despite the challenges brought on by prolonged drought and record-breaking heat, Wisconsin farmers earned $3 billion in net farm income in 2012, the second highest amount on record. While that’s down 21 percent from 2011, it’s $1 billion more than they earned in 2010. But how the year worked out for individual farmers varied considerably depending on where in the state they farm and what they produce.

Some key findings of the report are available here.