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Aging Farmers Plan For The Future


The average farmer in Wisconsin is around 56 years old, according to national agriculture statistics. UW-Extension has been helping farmers in Douglas County transition the family farm to the next generation.

UW-Extension’s Jane Anklam said they help answer farmers’ questions about planning for the future. Anklam said that includes whether they want to sell the farm or keep it in the family.

“The younger generation, are they going to be able to take over the farm with all the infrastructure and the tax questions involved too? How do you take a large operation, maybe land-rich, and give it to the next generation who maybe have sweat equity into the farm, but doesn’t have the capital that’s part of the farm. How does the family make that transfer?” said Anklam.

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Anklam adds that it’s not unusual for Wisconsin farmers to lack retirement plans.

“It’s not something they were trained to do from their parents or their parents’ parents. All their retirement is wrapped up in the land. So transferring the business to the next owner or next generation, you have to plan for your retirement piece that has to come out of that,” said Anklam.

Anklam said the amount of farm land in Wisconsin hasn’t changed much, but the number of farmers has dropped. Anklam said that’s due in part to rising land prices and taxes that younger farmers can’t afford. The number of farms in Douglas County has dropped by more than 40 percent in the last 50 years from 637 in 1959 to 364 in 2012, according to the most recent national agriculture statistics.