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Conference Name Farm Succession Research, Trends and Programs in Wisconsin

Joy Kirkpatrick


Data culled from the 2002 Ag Census shows that approximately 46% of Wisconsin farmers who identified farming as their primary occupation are 55 years old or older. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that over 500,000 of the nation’s two million farmers will retire during the next decade and will be replaced by 350,000 entrants. Using a conservative extrapolation, this means a potential for thousands of farm transfers in the Wisconsin over the next ten years, at a time when we see complex and rapid changes in the industry due to technological innovations, trade and other government policies, a growing world population, and urban pressures on agricultural lands, as well as conservation issues and environmental concerns. Research conducted in the four southwest counties of Wisconsin shows that a minority of farmers have identified a successor and/or developed farm business succession plans. The research indicates a majority of farmers have not discussed their retirement or succession plans with anyone. Survey responses show farmers in the study valuing an equal division of assets for inheritance, which may negatively impact on-farm heirs’ ability to continue farming. University of WI Cooperative Extension developed one-day, three-day and four-day farm succession programs to build awareness and facilitate the development of succession plans. Instructors lead participants through visioning and goal setting exercises with the use of the case farm, Bella Acres. At the end of the three and four-day workshops participants identified personal and business goals and developed an action plan to move their plan forward.