Farms Explore Expansion Alternatives

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation numbers showed Wisconsin banks remained healthy through the final quarter of 2023. Banks saw year-over-year lending increases in all categories — commercial, residential, and farm loans.

The numbers for the first quarter of 2024 won’t be available for a few months, but ag lenders are seeing some early trends. Elsa Condon with Nicolet National Bank says the agriculture economy faces low commodity prices in 2024 compared to 2023. Meanwhile, inputs have remained stagnant.

She says on-farm conversations over the winter have been about how to add revenue streams to the business for the next generation without more borrowing.

Condon says in well-traveled locations, farmstead processing of meat, cheese, or ice cream to sell directly to consumers is growing interest.

More popular, though, she says farms are looking at vertical integration. This is when the farm adds a stage of production to the business that is normally operated by a separate company. For example, the younger generation may open a shop on the farm that does all the equipment maintenance, repairs, or retrofitting, and it could also become a profit center for the farm.