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Wisconsin Agriculture in the 1990s: Perspectives From the 1997 Census of Agriculture
Research Reports No. 5, October 1999
by Frederick Buttel

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The 1990s have proven to be a critical decade in the development of U.S. and Wisconsin agriculture. The 1990s, for example, witnessed the phase-out of federal commodity programs and a corresponding increase in the influence of global trade liberalization measures (particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization) on farmers and farming. The 1990s will also be remembered as a time in which there was prolonged conflict in the federal courts and in the federal government over milk marketing order reform and over the formation of regional dairy “compacts.” Environmental issues in agriculture, particularly actual or proposed regulations on chemical use and large confinement animal feeding operations, have become increasingly important during this decade. The 1990s have also been a time at which the milk prices received by Wisconsin farmers have ranged from less than $10.00 per cwt. to over $17.00 per cwt.—the latter an all-time record (in nominal dollars). There have been active debates over the technological courses (intensive grazing, confinement, expansion, biotechnology, precision agriculture, sustainable agriculture, and so on) that farmers, the University, extension, and state government agencies ought to stress. The early part of the 1990s witnessed general recovery from the mid-1980s Farm Crisis. But at this writing there is every indication that there could be underway another farm crisis, at least in the foodgrain and feedgrain sectors, and possibly even in dairying. It has been a momentous decade in Wisconsin farming.

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