In Wisconsin, farmers struggling to make ends meet may play vital role in midterms

Dairy farmers in a state that Trump won in 2016 share the struggles they face in the wake of this summer's tariff war -- and what issues they'll be voting for on November 6.
7:21 | 11/01/18

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Transcript for In Wisconsin, farmers struggling to make ends meet may play vital role in midterms
There we go. Reporter: For dairy farms, these verdan field and the cows she tends provide life and livelihood. Nice job, lady. Reporter: Her roots are tied to this Wisconsin land. Her husband's family has been farming here over 100 years but now their future is uncertain. We can't get a price that's going to cover our cost of production. Reporter: Their industry so deeply woven into the fabric of this state, threatened. It feels pretty hopeless right now. Reporter: Describe for me, what is it like to live with the stress -- You start looking at all of the things you need to pay and you're like, how am I going to choose. That just either at you. When you don't have enough to pay your bills, you can't even take your kids to the hospital or the doctor, this is when the stress gets to be almost unbearable. Reporter: Wisconsin is the picture of the American heartland and is home to the most dairy farms in the country. But historically low milk prices coupled with a milk surplus has Wisconsin dairy farmers teetering on the edge. The state is losing 1.5 dairy farms a day. Western Wisconsin is leading the nation in chapter 13, which is agricultural bankruptcy. Reporter: This economic uncertainty is what drove many to vote for president trump in the election. They were a key voting block, flipping the state from blue to red for the first time in 32 years and securing trump's electoral victory. This summer trump's trade war made a bad situation worse. Trump imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on China, and China retaliated and as a result the American dairy industry lost $1 billion in income since may. Those farmers who helped put him in the white house, now paying the price. I mean everyone is hearing about, you know, the trade war and the sabre rattling that's been going on with China, with Canada, with Mexico, and that doesn't help our price at all. Reporter: It is a group of voters Republicans cannot afford to lose in the upcoming mid terms. Polling shows Democrats back on firm footing, making for a competitive election season. Last week in northwest Wisconsin president trump in town with this message for Wisconsin's farmers. We have a lot of great farmers in this country, but I give Wisconsin a lot of credit for. Reporter: It is a message many in this area are desperate to hear including dairy farmer Keith Crager. You guys have put blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot more. Everything. Cows come first, we eat second. Reporter: Cows come first, you eat second. Yes. Reporter: Wow. His 70-cow dairy sits on 380 acres down the road from where trump's rally was held. He is still hopeful about the president's message. We met up with Keith and neighboring dairy farmers to talk about how hard it is to survive these days. Here in marathon county 29 dairy farms have gone under in the past year. Reporter: You are watching people get out of dairy farming. Yes. Reporter: Big time. So what is that like when you see one of your friends, your community decide to throw in the towel? What takes a person at that point? It is like getting hit in the stomach. You don't want to see them leave because you don't know if you will be next. Reporter: Stress level is high. Suicide rates are high. Reporter: As soon as I said that, everyone was nodding. I see some farmers getting suicide numbers in their milk checks. Reporter: Here is your help, here is your aid. Here is your check, and if you are thinking about doing something scary, call this number. If I have insurance on myself, I go out and commit suicide and the family gets the insurance money. Some of the guys are planning to kill themselves so the family gets insurance money to keep the farms running. Reporter: The president has strived to help. This summer as the tariff battle with China became clear, trump announced his $12 million farm bill to alleviate the strain. But for many farmers it is too little, too late. Our farm here, 350 cows, we think we would get a one-time payment of $6,570 and we're losing like $30,000 a month. Our farm, doing the calculation, it was less than $500. That $500 does not go very far. Reporter: And then after months of stalled negotiations with Canada and Mexico, president trump introduced a new trade deal with both countries called usmca. It is a giant victory for Wisconsin farmers, manufacturers and dairy producers. Reporter: Under this new policy, Canada increasing the amount of U.S. Dairy products it imports. How do you guys feel about these tariffs? I think they're good intentions, I really do, because I think we've been screwed for so long by other countries and we're trying to make up for some of this, but contingency plan. Reporter: How much will the new deal help you? In my opinion, it is not going to make a hill of difference. Reporter: Keith's wife Julie like many spouses has an off-farm job to help pay the bills and give the family insurance. If there was enough income here, I wouldn't have to do it. I would prefer to stay home and tend to everything that needs to be done here, but instead this all is pushed aside so I can go make money somewhere else. Reporter: Sarah Lloyd knows this life well. Part of Hur off-farm job is being a full-time advocate for Wisconsin dairy farmers, like here at the annual farm aid benefit concert, an event that raises millions of dollars for farmers in need. The people that produce the best food should be able to produce it without being afraid of going hungry themselves because they can't make ends meet. Reporter: Sarah supports this idea. She says she doesn't want a handout, just a hand up. We were there when Sarah, Keith and a group of dairy farmers from across the country took the message to capitol hill. The federal government is really involved with the dairy pricing and so we have to come here to D.C. To ask for some assistance. We are asking for supply management. Reporter: Some dairy farmers argue the overproduction of milk creates a surplus that has caused milk prices to plummet, they say decreasing or managing the milk supply would help correct the cycle. I literally jumped off the tractor to come down here. I know president trump, he's got to do his thing to where -- I was hoping it was going to help the farmers. The farmers helped him get into the office. It is pretty disappointing right now. Reporter: They meet with Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin, up for reelection this year, and others. I do feel like my voice was heard today and that's why I came to D.C., so that was good. They had an ear to listen to us, so it is a good feeling to go back home and tell the rest of the farmers what the experience was. Reporter: Back home for these families, it is impossible to Telling us don't give up. Telling us don't give up, keep going. Don't give up. You did a good job. You want a good future for your kids. Reporter: Yeah, the landscape for dairy farmers gets better. Yes. Reporter: So there is a future for yourself.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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