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Federal Loans Available For Wisconsin Farms Damaged By Winter Weather

Heavy Snow Damaged Barns, Killed Livestock Across State This Winter

Farm in winter
Bill Martens/WPR

Wisconsin farmers with property damage or livestock losses from winter weather could qualify for low-interest loans from the federal government.

The Farm Service Agency is offering emergency loans to producers in 56 Wisconsin counties who were affected by snow and extreme cold from Jan. 27 to March 2.

“That time period started with several days of extreme cold followed by repeated snowstorms, blizzards and high winds, especially in the western part of the state,” said Sandy Chalmers, executive director of the Wisconsin FSA.

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Chalmers said the heavy snow pack caused roofs to collapse on farms across the state, damaging equipment and killing livestock.

Carl Duley, an agricultural agent for University of Wisconsin-Extension in Buffalo County, estimates 200 farm buildings were totally or partially destroyed in his county alone, causing up to $16 million dollars in structure damage.

“It’s very significant for our little county with not a lot of economic activity outside of agriculture,” Duley said.

Duley said the region hasn’t seen this kind of winter weather damage since 2010 and the financial impact is even worse due to four years of low commodity prices.

Chalmers said it isn’t uncommon for the FSA to make assistance available after extreme weather events. And she said the emergency loans are designated for farmers who can’t obtain credit from a commercial lender.

“Our loan program is specifically for those farmers who were it not for FSA, would be done,” Chalmers said.

Duley said the low-interest loans will help some struggling producers in his county — but not all.

“A lot of guys are just carrying a lot of debt already and more loans, depending on how they can arrange them and finance them, may not help some of them,” Duley said.

Duley said at least five dairy farms in Buffalo County have decided to leave the industry instead of trying to rebuild. He expects more farms will close this summer if milk prices don’t improve.