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The graying of rural America continues

When I was young, you could drive up and down country roads and almost everyone was milking cows. Now you can drive for miles between dairy farms.It’s not just dairy. In the most recent Census of Agriculture done in 2012, there were 69,754 farms in Wisconsin, a decrease from 78,463 in 2007. I wonder what the 2017 Census, which is coming our way starting in December, will show when results are released in 2019.Farming hasn’t disappeared. It’s just changing. Some farms are growing larger. More land is leased. Our vision of the family farm — 94 percent of Wisconsin farm acreage is still connected to family-owned operations — is just different.The debate whether that’s good or bad is ongoing, but there is one indisputable fact: Farmers are growing older.Earlier this year Minnesota approved a law supported by the young-farmers coalition that provides state income-tax credits to beginning farmers to help offset the costs of buying or leasing land, farm equipment and livestock. The farmers must take a farm-management class, which is also covered by the tax credit.Perhaps it’s time for similar legislation in Wisconsin. A recent effort was a bill introduced in 2015 called the New Farmer Student Loan Assistance Program, which would have reimbursed up to $30,000 of student loan debt over five years for new farmers.

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LaCrosse Tribune