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New brochures show ag’s economic impact in Wisconsin counties

Along with dairy, can you name other agricultural commodities that contribute to Wisconsin’s $60 billion agricultural industry? If you guessed cranberries, Christmas trees, ginseng, maple syrup and vegetables – including potatoes, snap beans, sweet corn and peas – you’re right!

Wisconsin’s vibrant and varied agricultural industry supports 350,000 jobs throughout the state and has an economic impact on all 72 counties.

A series of brochures produced by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension shows the total impact of agriculture – the direct effect, including sales of commodities and processed products, the indirect effect, generated by agriculture-related companies, and the effect of agricultural workers spending their earnings in the local economy for Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

“The brochures are a useful tool to help residents learn more about the value and economic importance of agriculture in Wisconsin counties,” said Dave Williams, associate director of UW-Extension’s Agriculture and Natural Resources program.
“It adds up to some pretty impressive numbers. For example, you might not think agriculture would have that much impact in urban counties. But that’s actually where it has the greatest impact.”

Urban counties such as Milwaukee, Dane and Brown rack up the highest numbers in terms of sales, income and employment because many of the state’s major dairy processors and employers are based in these counties.

For example, dairy processing accounts for $2.3 billion in sales and 6,713 jobs in Brown County and $2 billion in sales and 3,822 jobs in Sheboygan County.

Agriculture may not have as great a monetary impact in the state’s rural counties, but these counties rely heavily on agriculture.

In Lafayette County, for instance, more than half the county’s workforce works in agriculture, and farmers own or manage 85 percent of the county’s land. Likewise, in Richland County, 41 percent of the workforce works in agriculture, and farmers own or manage almost 70 percent of the county’s land.

In addition to economic impacts, the newly updated brochures show the makeup of farm ownership and describe farming trends.

Diversification is a long-term trend, with counties boasting a mix of livestock, crops and processing in addition to dairy.

Many counties report an increase in the number of smaller farms raising vegetables and specialty foods to meet growing demand for fresh, local products.

Williams and Steve Deller, a professor with the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, authored the study that provided the data for the county brochures.

The brochures can be found online at