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Wisconsin Hosts National Value-Added Ag Conference

Agribusiness experts from around the country gather in Wisconsin this month for a national conference on rural economic development. (Veremeev/iStockPhoto)
Agribusiness experts from around the country gather in Wisconsin this month for a national conference on rural economic development. (Veremeev/iStockPhoto)
July 5, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Agricultural producers, ag-industry representatives, and academic specialists from around the country will be headed to Wisconsin later this month for the annual National Value-Added Agricultural Conference. The big event is July 21-22 in Madison, attracting farmers, service providers, extension specialists and community leaders.

Kietra Olson, business development specialist with the state Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection, said the event will draw a national audience and feature national experts.

"We have speakers coming from around the United States to talk about agritourism and rural and urban economic development, local and regional food systems, alternative-energy technology, supply-chain issues, and a lot more," she said.

The event includes tours of Wisconsin agribusinesses and value-added industries. Olson said one of the most popular features is a winery in Sauk County and a distilling operation in Dane County. There are nearly 77,000 farms in Wisconsin, 99 percent of which are family-owned. Wisconsin leads the nation not only in number of farms, but in the diversity of agricultural production.

According to the state Agriculture Department, Wisconsin's ag industry generates more than $59 billion annually in economic activity. The focus of this 18th annual conference is entrepreneurship and expanding rural economies through innovation and reaching out to new markets. Olson said today's farmers are learning about a lot more than planting and harvesting.

"Outreach programming for market expansion as it's related to value-added processing: grant writing, entrepreneurship, aquaponics and soil-health topics, financing value-added products, things like that," she added.

Olson said it's a chance for those attending to interact with innovative agribusiness owners and economic developers from throughout the Midwest. Registration for the event closes on July 16.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI