MADISON — New federal court data shows the Western District of Wisconsin had the highest number of farm bankruptcies in the country last year.
The Western District had 28 Chapter 12 bankruptcy cases filed in 2017, a chapter specifically for family farmers or fishermen. The district includes 44 counties and covers more than half of the geographic area of the state.
The Eastern District of Wisconsin had 17 cases and the Minnesota District had 19 cases. There are 94 federal court districts in the United States.
“The increase in Chapter 12 bankruptcies is certainly an anomaly when you compare it to the other types of bankruptcies,” said Christopher Seelen, an Eau Claire attorney who represents creditors in bankruptcy court. “People seem to have jobs, and the economy seems to be going well for most folks. Unfortunately for some of these farmers who are suffering through these low grain prices, the economy is not going as well for them.”
Low commodity prices for corn, soybeans and milk mean Wisconsin farmers are earning less, while input costs have remained steady or increased.
As commodity price forecasts show little sign of improvement, Seelen said the state will likely see more farm bankruptcies in 2018.