ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU)- Continued low commodity prices across the board are taking their toll on the economic viability of Wisconsin farms. New numbers from the USDA show farm bankruptcies across the upper Midwest have been at all time highs over the past 3 years with a total of 84. In 2018, 47 Wisconsin farms declared for Chapter 12 bankruptcy-that's a rate of 6.9 farms for every 10,000 operations in the state. In 2017 the rate was 6.57 and in 2016 it was 5.82. Previously that rate was consistently about 3 per 10,000 operations each year. The highest bankruptcy trends seem to be along the Mississippi River with Polk County having 4 and Monroe County having 3 farm bankruptcies last year. Nebraska had the second highest number of farmers claiming Chapter 12 last year with 31. Those numbers don't include farms that re-structured, re-financed or went out of business on their own last year.
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle want to rein in President Trump's use of tariffs in international trade. Earlier this week a bipartisan group in both the House and Senate introduced the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019 that would make the president submit plans to Congress for approval of any proposal to put tariffs on goods from other countries. Congress would then have 60 days to address the president's request. The proposal is supported by many business and agricultural groups.
Those tariffs are having a big effect on farm income. Before the tariffs China was the biggest buyer of American farm products at $21 billion a year. Now they rank 5th with purchases of $12 billion a year. But other countries have benefited from our tariffs. Brazilian farm exports now total over $100 billion a year with the bulk of those sales going to China thanks to huge increases in China's purchases of Brazilian soybeans.
The ethanol industry got some god news this week. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told him the rules for year 'round E-15 use will be in place by June, the start of the summer driving season. He also said it would have been earlier if the government shutdown hadn't slowed the procedure. Wheeler also got some good news yesterday when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved his nomination to be the new EPA administrator out of committee and to the full Senate for a vote.