In honor of National Agriculture Day today, I'd like to take a moment to thank our hardworking family farmers in western Wisconsin. The role they play in our local, statewide and national economy is tremendous.
In fact, this year net farm income is expected to hit a record $99 billion, while our farm and food exports are expected to total a record $135.5 billion. Without the dedication of our farmers to growing and providing our nation's food and fuel, our communities would be much different places.
Our farmers ensure that we have safe, reliable and affordable food production here at home. They produce the food that appears on our plates every day and give us the option to eat local and organic.
As small businesses, they serve as the backbone to our rural economies, providing jobs, resources, and growing the local community. Farming is still the No. 1 industry in Wisconsin and employs more people directly or indirectly than any other industry in our state.
In a 21st century economy, agriculture production is changing rapidly. But it's the earnest work of our small farmers that ensures the future of the industry here in Wisconsin.
Like any other business, farmers do their best to manage risk: weather, feed and fuel costs, sale prices, illness, or something unseen. Our federal farm programs work best when they help farmers to manage these risks.
Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) and crop insurance are important tools for our farmers, and we should look at how we can make these programs more cost efficient and effective. Our Farm Services Agency provides direct and guaranteed loans that have been vital in helping Wisconsin farmers stay in operation when revenues are stretched too thin and invest in new machinery when they are looking to expand.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program have bolstered farmers' responsible conservation efforts, ensuring they are good stewards of the land.
And I've worked hard to reform outdated and wasteful taxpayer- funded farm subsidies that unfairly go to just a few large agribusinesses. They only distort the market and make it difficult for many farmers here in western Wisconsin. They are not fiscally responsible and do not help our family farmers. We must improve these policies so they reflect the needs of the average family farmer. And I will continue my work to do so on the upcoming farm bill.
But it is not just these programs that have helped mitigate risk. The farming community's ability to grow and innovate, to adjust to the changing industry, has made success possible. Our farmers have shown us they can withstand the tough times and still maintain the way of life that means so much to Wisconsin.
It hasn't been easy for those who have to purchase feed, considering commodity prices are at or near record highs. And our dairy producers have surely had a tough few years with such low milk prices. But yet they've stayed strong and have weathered the economic storm. Our farmers in Wisconsin have shown us the enormous potential that exists in local, organic and direct-to-consumer marketing.
I want to thank each and every one of them for their dedication to raising animals, working the soil, producing crops and feeding America. Our communities, our state and our country are a better place because of their work.