Ag Outlook Forum to explore rural-urban divide

posted Jan. 9, 2018 7:19 a.m. (CDT)
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“Navigating the Rural-Urban Divide in Wisconsin” is the theme for the 2018 Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook Forum set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, in Varsity Hall II in Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St., Madison.

After spending a decade visiting rural communities and inviting herself to listen in on informal conversations about politics at diners, gas stations and other local gathering spots, UW-Madison political scientist Kathy Cramer has learned a lot about Wisconsin’s rural-urban divide. She summarized her findings in her 2016 book, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.” Cramer will interpret her book during the keynote talk.

Due to her unusual research approach, Cramer has developed a unique and deep understanding of a perspective she calls rural consciousness, which she describes as someone’s identity as a rural person combined with a sense that people in rural communities do not get their fair share of attention, resources and respect. Cramer will explain this perspective at the forum.

“I’ll also explain how this perspective is fertile ground for arguments against supporting public institutions like UW-Madison and UW-Extension, and I will argue that agriculture could very well be one important way in which we bridge our urban vs. rural divides,” she said.

The morning session features presentations by UW-Madison and UW-Extension Cooperative Extension experts on the recent trends and future outlook for the state’s main agricultural products, as well as the status of Wisconsin’s farm economy and overall economy. The afternoon session, which takes place after Cramer’s lunchtime keynote, will explore how Wisconsin agribusinesses affect and are affected by the rural-urban divide.

The afternoon session, moderated by Larry Meiller, starts with a talk about the myths and realities of the rural-urban divide by Tessa Conroy, an economic development specialist with the UW-Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and UW-Extension Cooperative Extension. Conroy’s talk will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Larry Alsum, owner of Alsum Farms and Produce; Mark Crave, herd manager and personnel manager for Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese; and Mark O’Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association.

Forum registration is open through Jan. 18. The $20 registration fee covers both lunch and the forum. For more information or to register, visit https://​​ag-outlook-forum. For more information, contact Jeremy Beach at or 608-262-9485.

The event is sponsored by the UW-Madison Renk Agribusiness Institute, UW-Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, UW-Madison Office of University Relations, UW-Extension, Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Midwest Food Products Association and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

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