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Burke talks agriculture at farm in Stoddard

USDA: Between 2007-2012, Wisconsin lost almost 9,000 farms

Burke talks agriculture at Stoddard farm

STODDARD, Wis. (WKBT) - Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke visited a farm in Stoddard on Thursday to talk about her initiative to help Wisconsin farmers.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, between 2007 and 2012, Wisconsin lost almost 9,000 farms, which is a loss of about 11 percent of total farms. For a dairy state, that's a big loss, but Burke said she has a plan to help farmers in the long-run.

"My dad started here in the '70s," said Tim Servais, the owner of Servais Dairy Farm in Stoddard.

Servais grew up on farms, but he wasn't always sure he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

"You know it's a real big commitment to know you want to get up every morning and come out and take care of dairy cattle," said Servais.

"It's a lot of work; it's not easy at all," said Burke.

After taking a few years off, Servais decided to give farming another try.

"When I came back and farmed with dad, to borrow money was hard," said Servais. "Everyone looked at a dairy farm and said, 'I don't want to touch that.'"

Eventually Servais caught a break and never looked back. However, he admits it was hard to get started financially, but Burke wants to change that.

"You need to make investments and that capital and access to capital is important to modernize, I don't think we are doing enough of that," said Burke.

Burke said farmers need more access to the type of financing that allows them to expand.

"It's investment in the type of equipment that's going to be able to reduce dependence on labor that may be hard to get," said Burke.

If new equipment lightens the workload, Burke believes more people will look at farming as a career.

"A lot of that revolves around how much work it takes and sometimes investment in equipment can make sure that younger farmers that have families and a lot of obligations are able to have quality of life," said Burke.

Servais credits his success to the ability to balance life and work, but he said the future generations are a new type of crop.

"My kids are enthusiastic about agriculture now, but will they be here 10 years down the road? Time will tell, I guess we will see what happens," said Servais.

News 8 did contact Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday about agriculture in Wisconsin.

"With the development of new programs like the Dairy 30 X 20 Grant to increase milk production, as well as agriculture tax credits and decreased property taxes, Gov. Walker is creating an environment in which Wisconsin Farms can thrive," said a statement from his office.

Wisconsin's agriculture industry contributes nearly $60 billion to the state's economy every year.

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