Gov. Tony Evers announces another $50 million in direct payments to Wisconsin farmers battered by pandemic
COLUMBUS – Gov. Tony Evers is providing another $50 million in payments to farmers to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and an already struggling market for the state's dairy farmers.
The new round of payments is part of a state program Evers has dedicated about $100 million worth of federal coronavirus aid to funding.
"Our farms are central to our state's economy and to our identity," Evers said at a press conference at Gurn-Z Meadow dairy farm in rural Columbus.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the Wisconsin dairy industry struggled as farmers navigated a trade war and low milk prices leading the state to the highest rate of farm bankruptcies in the nation. The virus outbreak worsened the situation.
In 2019, milk prices finally started to climb. By November, prices reached the highest level since 2014. But once the coronavirus outbreak hit China, prices dropped again. And because of restaurant and school closures in the U.S., the dairy industry was hit again because about half of milk production is consumed outside the home. From November 2019 to May 2020, milk prices dropped 39%.
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The first round of $50 million worth of payments distributed in 2020 was funded through the federal law known as the CARES Act. The 2021 round of payments will be paid for through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Farmers may apply for the payments with the Department of Revenue through the Wisconsin Farm Support Program. Each recipient will receive up to $3,500.
The application period will open after fall harvest, according to the governor's office.
Yuriko Schumacher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.