A worldwide surplus of milk has driven down the price farmers receive to the point where many have lost money for months, or even several years, at a time. Nearly 3,000 U.S. dairy farms folded in 2018, about a 6.5% decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.Wisconsin lost nearly 700 last year — almost two a day — as even dairy farmers used to enduring hard times called it quits in a downturn now headed into its fifth year.The fallout continues as farmers, on the cusp of spring planting, decide whether to invest in seed, chemicals, fertilizer and other supplies needed to raise the crops they feed to their cattle. More than 300 Wisconsin dairy farms shut down between January and May, including 90 — three a day — in April alone.Some will find the decision is out of their hands as banks refuse to extend them credit. “It’s enough to test even the most optimistic farmer limping out to the fields,” said Ronald Wirtz, regional outreach director for the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, which regulates banks in parts of six states, including northwest Wisconsin, and keeps close tabs on agricultural lending trends. In 2018, for the third straight year, Wisconsin led the nation in farm bankruptcies. The state's smaller average farm size, particularly in dairy, is at least partly the reason, Wirtz said. The farm economy in the Upper Midwest "might generously be described as struggling to tread water," he added. Some dairy farmers say they've been getting around $15 for every hundred pounds of milk they produce — roughly 12 gallons — but their costs are between $17 and $22. Many families have exhausted their savings and credit to remain in business; a large number have at least one non-farm income to help meet the needs of their families.