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Cheese and So Much More: Ag Census Data Show Multi-Faceted Wisconsin Farm Economy

Posted by Greg Bussler, Wisconsin State Statistician, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Research and Science
Dec 19, 2019
Wisconsin cranberries
Wisconsin cranberries up close ripen throughout the season, with producers closely monitoring until time to harvest. The 2017 Ag Census data show Wisconsin leads the nation in cranberry production. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Wisconsin (PDF, 941 KB) is known as America’s Dairyland; however, the 2017 Census of Agriculture data show us that Wisconsin has a diverse agricultural industry. It’s no surprise Wisconsin ranks number one in cheese production, but did you know it also ranks number one in corn for silage, cranberry, and snap bean production?

A goat farm in Wisconsin
These goats just might be the G.O.A.T. They make up a significant portion of Wisconsin livestock, with the dairyland state leading the nation in milk goats. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

On the livestock side, Wisconsin is number one in milk goats and mink pelts. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Wisconsin farmers sold $11.4 billion in agricultural products and ranked ninth nationally in value of products sold. Sixty-four percent of these sales came from livestock, poultry, and their products, while 36 percent came from crop sales.

Although the number of farms and land in farms decreased from 2012, the average farm size increased 6 percent. In 2017, Wisconsin had 64,793 farms and 14.3 million acres in farms with an average farm size of 221 acres. Forty-eight percent of farms had sales of less than $10,000. Wisconsin ranks number one in the number of dairy farms with 9,037 milk cow farms. That can make a lot of cheese! The state ranks second in the number of organic farms with 1,537 organic farms.

The average age of all Wisconsin producers is 56 years-old, which is 1.5 years younger than the national average. In 2017, Wisconsin young producers (age 35 years or less) accounted for 9.4 percent of all Wisconsin producers, and 22 percent of producers considered themselves as new and beginning producers (10 years or less).

We at NASS would personally like to thank all the Wisconsin farm operators who completed the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Wisconsin was in the top 10 for completing the Census. Without the help of producers participating in the Ag Census program, we would not be able to show the importance of Wisconsin agriculture. For more details about U.S. and Wisconsin agriculture, visit

Snap beans
Snap beans are a big part of the multi-faceted Wisconsin ag economy. The state ranked first in the nation in snap bean production according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
Category/Topic: Research and Science