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Business & Economics

Agriculture exports up, but some Wisconsin farmers still see problems

Agriculture WAOW.jpg
WAOW Television
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The Badger State's agriculture industry is climbing its way back to the top, in a big way.

"Wisconsin hit a new record for ag exports in 2021," said Randy Romanski, secretary of the state Department of Agricultre, Trade and Consumer Protection.

DATCP reports all exports and sales saw large increases from 2020, with dairy products up nearly 15% and meat products up 10%.

But not all crops are feeling the love.

"We need some help. Otherwise there will not be ginseng in our state anymore," said Joe Heil, owner of Heil Ginseng in Edgar. "At these prices with our input cost and the trade barriers, we're not going to make it."

DATCP reports their increases signal a return to normalcy.

"There's a growing appetite for food and feed internationally and the great thing is that Wisconsin has a really diverse portfolo of products that it can offer the world," Romanski said.

It's anything but business as usual for Heil.

"A huge part is the tariffs, to import into China is 41% on tax and tariff," he said.

Those tariffs are leftover from some countries' response to Trump's 2018 tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Another difficulty comes in getting the products shipped at all, something DATCP acknowledged, saying farmers could continue to deal with it.

"Shipping containers are a problem," Heil said. "We really struggle to get the containers to move our product out of here."

Despite the lingering problems, DATCP is optimistic. But as of right now, it's not a sentiment ginseng farmers share.

"I'm scared for my kids," Heil said. "This is a business I was thinking they'd take over some day but at some point I'm thinking maybe this isn't the best business."

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