Dairy group says Wisconsin’s coronavirus direct payment program excluded larger dairy farms

A dairy group’s government affairs director says Wisconsin’s Farmer Assistance Program which just made direct payments to farmers from federal assistance funding could have helped more dairy farms by eliminating the five-million-dollar maximum gross revenue cap.  John Holevoet with the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmers Cooperative tells Brownfield the upper revenue cap was likely why the state had fewer farms sign up. “You don’t have to be a very big farm to reach that revenue amount, and that revenue amount has nothing to do with actually what your income is or what you take out of the farm. A lot of people are still losing money. They just happen to be making that much (gross) money but maybe their expenses are well above that.”

Holevoet tells Brownfield that large dairy producers needed assistance, too. “They’re facing losses just like smaller producers are facing losses, and in fact, their losses are multiplied and they have even more need for liquidity at this time period.”

Holevoet says he understands there was a limited amount of money for the direct payment program, but he would have preferred different qualification limits. “From our perspective, the $30,000 threshold from the first round was more than sufficient for a bottom cap, and going lower doesn’t make much sense to me at all. On the upper side, I’m not sure why we had a cap, to begin with.”

Governor Tony Evers set aside 50-million dollars from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program dollars for direct payments to all eligible in-state farm product producers.  Less than 15 thousand of the state’s estimated 26-thousand eligible farms signed up, and all qualified applicants just received 35-hundred dollars.  The second round of applications for the remaining 10 million in funding will open next month with a lower minimum income threshold of $10,000 in gross farm income.

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