Feast & Famine in the ag industry — December 2017


FAMINE: In the state of Wisconsin, no other industry gets close to the $44 billion annually generated by the dairy industry.

According to the University of Wisconsin, the business of milk has more impact in the state than the citrus industry does to Florida or the potato sector does to Idaho.

So when the head of the state’s largest business lobby — Kurt Bauer of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce — recently floated the idea of removing “America’s Dairyland” from Wisconsin license plates, one can justifiably question whether he’s lost the credibility to lead the organization.

Bauer suggested that other slogans, such as “Forward,” might help “modernize” perceptions of the state’s economy. That overlooks the fact that, without dairy, Wisconsin wouldn’t have much of an economy upon which to build.

Or as Professional Dairy Producers Executive Director Shelly Meyer observed, “Taking ‘America’s Dairyland’ off of the Wisconsin license plate is about as logical as taking the ‘W’ off of Wisconsin … It’s not only America’s dairyland, but it’s where the world goes for dairy, for dairy knowledge, for dairy research.”

During the upcoming membership cycle for the WMC, dairy producers, processors, suppliers, financers, logistics companies and other dairy-affiliated companies should withhold their dues for a year. In a world where money speaks louder than words, Mr. Bauer might be well served a firm reminder that he needs the dairy industry far more than it needs him.

FAMINE: One issue with the most persistent of “animal rights activists” isn’t that a group of people do not want to consume animal-based products. That’s their prerogative (a low-science/bad-for-your-health prerogative, but it’s theirs, nonetheless).

No the issue is that these individuals — much like other followers of fanatical belief systems — cast judgment on others who don’t share their lifestyle choices and demand that their way of life be imposed on “non-believers.”

Consider the crass publicity ploy deployed by an Australian pizza joint, which displays a taxidermied cow, hung by its hooves, upside down from the ceiling of Etica Pizza in Adelaide.

The owners say the display of the cow “is purposely confronting” and the installation “aims to draw a connection to the true consequences of consuming dairy.” For the record, the owners weren’t so concerned about the cow’s welfare that it stopped them from gutting her in the first place. “Her meat was entirely consumed,” they boasted in public statement.

Etica’s proprietors claim they are offering a lesson in “ethics,” but the sheer cruelty and hypocrisy of their “instruction” is horrifying. Their sheer tone deafness, the fact that at some juncture the owners felt morally comfortable desecrating a cow in this manner makes our minds reel. The fact they claim to do it in defense of cows makes it unforgiveable.

FEAST:  In a region that has become a nexus for anti-farming activism, the Kewaunee County (Wis.) Board of Supervisors pushed back against the politics of rhetoric to pass a common-sense, first-in-the-state ordinance to deal with nutrient spreading and contamination.

The ordinance will allow low-pressure-drip irrigation no higher than 18 inches from the soil surface. And farmers can use the drip to spread manure during summer, not just in the spring and fall.

It’s worth noting that the measure passed unanimously — 19-0 — during the Nov. 7 vote, including getting the support of longtime large-farm opponent Lee Luft.

“(This) is a tool that farmers can utilize while being protective of the public health concerns of the citizens,” said Davina Bonness, director of the land and water conservation department. “This practice will alleviate the nutrient application during the groundwater recharge times of spring and fall when wells are the most vulnerable to contamination.”

The compromise marked a victory for scientifically sound practices in the face of NIMBY (“Not in my backyard”) activists who often threatened to drown out common sense with their rhetoric. The measure offers farmers another land-management option and provides the community with reassurance.

FAMINE: In West Columbia, S.C., the House of Raeford is a 60-year-old poultry plant that employs 800 people. It accounts for about 10 percent of the community’s water utility revenue and is a major donor to local charities.

This, however, means nothing to a group of more-recent residents who openly admit they seek to drive the company out of the area because they find it “annoying.” It’s a textbook case of NIMBYism run amok.

Worse, however, is the fact the city council seems to be buying into this self-destructive mindset. The council recently gave initial approval to a set of restrictions on “offensive” odors. The plan allows fines of up to $500 for a violation and up to 30 days in jail if an odor “annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others.”

Perhaps the House of Raeford should relocate to a community where jobs, tax base and charitable revenues — along with a “coexist” mentality — can thrive?  It’s wonderful that you can throw someone in jail if they “annoy” you.

To be fair, not all of the company’s neighbors are carrying pitchforks and we salute resident Patricia Ramsey, who has lived nearby for 43 years, for having the courage to speak truth to power. “We’re very lucky to have a company willing to invest in the community,” she observed. “Where are we going to get the missing revenue if we run them out of business?”

Where, indeed.