Farm production remains steady

HOUGHTON — Larger Upper Peninsula commercial farming operations have been consolidating in recent years shrinking the number of farms in the region.

“One of the…things I have a lot of concern about is the transition of our existing family farms. The larger farms to new operators, to the next generation or to outside younger people who would want to buy those farms,” said James Isleib, MSU Extension crop production educator. “There is sort of a flip-side to that idea…as the number of farms decreases, the ones that remain in business tend to take over their acreage or increase their cow numbers.”

As a result, the production isn’t decreasing, but the number of commercial family farms in operation is. Since Isleib started working for MSU Extension in 1989, the number of dairy farms has gone from 250 to less than 100.

Isleib has seen a similar trend in beef production.

“The people that are staying in tend to be growing bigger and bigger, and that’s again a nationwide phenomenon, not just the U.P.,” Isleib said.

In fact, there is a high level of financial strain on the entire farming system, he said, which is also something impacting the commercial U.P. farmers.

“The commodity prices are low so they’re not getting a…good income for their products, and the input costs just continue to rise,” Isleib said.

He suggested the difficulty might stem from the growing international market but referred the question to agricultural economists.

The majority of U.P. farmers side-step international competition by primarily selling locally, but these are typically small-scale farms, not commercial operations.

TOMORROW: Local small-scale farming in the Upper Peninsula.