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Wisconsin Still Leads In Mink Pelt Production Despite Dip Since 2016

Wisconsin Mink Farmers Worry Chinese Tariffs Could Hurt Industry Future

In this Feb. 12, 2013 photo two minks in cages at Bob Zimbal’s fur farm in Sheboygan Falls, Wis. Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

Wisconsin continues to be a leader in production of mink fur.

The state’s farmers produced 1.09 million mink pelts in 2017, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s down about 9 percent from the previous year.

“Wisconsin produces about one third of the total production in the U.S. It’s a very big business in Wisconsin,” said Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Commission USA, a trade association representing mink farms.

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Unlike many other agricultural commodities, Whelan said the mink industry has seen strong prices in the last few years.

The average price for an American mink pelt was around $36 last year, almost $2 more than in 2016.

“We’re not supported by any government price supports or any subsidies or anything like that,” Whelan said. “It’s supply and demand. So each year the pelts go up for auction, and whatever the demand is the pelts get more or less.”

But an increasing trade war between the United States and China could be devastating for the industry.

Whelan said mink pelts are largely an export product and China is the number one buyer.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens,” Whelan said. “Right now we’re not sure, we’re still examining the laws and the tariffs.”

Whelan said the U.S. has placed a tariff on fur garments coming from China, but he’s not aware of a Chinese tariff planned for American pelts.