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How Do I Register as a Farmer in Wisconsin?

Farming is one of the top industries in Wisconsin. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 64,400 farms in Wisconsin in 2020. The total land in farms was 14.3 million acres, with an average farm size of 222 acres. Whether you have a small, medium, or large farm, you need to know how to register as a farmer in Wisconsin. An experienced attorney will assist you with the process and answer any questions you may have.

What is a Farm?

Wisconsin law defines agricultural land as land devoted primarily to agricultural use. It does not include buildings or improvements necessary for the farm. It is important to understand that you do not have to sell crops in order for the land to be considered agricultural. Therefore, even those who have a “hobby farm” may still have their land classified as agricultural. If you keep livestock, you must register the premises with the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC). Premises refers to any location where livestock resides or congregates. Livestock includes cattle, swine, poultry, sheep, goats, horses, fish, and other animals.

Starting a Farming Business

Farming is a business. When you want to establish your farm as a business in Wisconsin, you will need to make some decisions. One of the most important considerations is the type of business structure you wish to use. There are several main business structures to consider before you register:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Corporation
  • Limited liability company

Sole proprietorship is a choice of some hobby farmers or those with small farms. With this arrangement, you do not need to register your business, but you alone are responsible for your business and could be liable for losses that might impact your personal finances.

Corporations and limited liability companies generally have more than one proprietor and the arrangement could be beneficial for reducing personal liability.

The structure of your farm business is an important decision, so it is helpful to discuss the matter with a qualified attorney.

Registration and Licensing

It is necessary to follow all the laws and regulations governing farming in Wisconsin. You must properly register your company if it is a corporation or limited liability company. In addition, you need to register the premises as agricultural land.

  • If you are raising or otherwise working with livestock, you will need to register appropriately.
  • Those who work with specific products or livestock must also obtain a license. For instance, if you plan to sell cut vegetables or fruit you must process the products in a commercial kitchen and obtain a license.
  • If you sell fewer than 1,000 birds (poultry) in a year you do not need a license. However, if you sell more than 1,000 you must have a license or warehouse license.
  • Selling dairy products requires a license along with a dairy plant license and possibly a personal license.
  • Those selling at farmer’s markets generally need a mobile retail food license.

Starting a farm can be complicated and you must comply with all the rules and regulations that apply to your specific type of farm. To get the legal guidance you need, contact our attorneys at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online.

Published March 21, 2022
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