OK, I’ve been a bad AgWeb blogger and let my postings lapse the past three weeks. I’ve been on the road every week of September, and haven’t had time to collect my thoughts about things going on in farming, in Washington, and in the world. So I’m going to do a rapid-fire roundup of some recent developments related to the usual things I cover here at the Udder Hand, with links to, and thoughts about, each:
We always knew it was just a matter of time before the insidious undercover investigators at PETA trained their hidden cameras on a dairy farm. Last week, they released some unsettling images from a farm in Pennsylvania, which is still the lead item on their website. Today, in fact, they’re staging a protest in Albany to add more fuel to the fire.
PETA doesn’t have any credibility, but they sure are good at drawing attention to themselves. The best way to fight them is through a proactive demonstration of the commitment that dairy farmers have to proper animal care. No one wants to be judged by our worst day, or by the worst apple in the barrel. But in the future, as regulators and consumers direct more attention to animal care on farms, we need to be up-front about deploying best practices on our farms. That’s why I was at the World Dairy Expo last week to unveil the new National Dairy FARM program. This project has been in the works for over a year, but if there was ever a demonstration of why it’s needed, PETA provided it last week.
CSPI Top 10 List
And here’s another activist group with its latest agitprop, featuring information about dairy that is way out of context. The Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a report Tuesday listing the 10 riskiest foods. Cheese and ice cream were right up there with sprouts and spinach. What they didn’t tell you is that almost all of the cheese-related illnesses are from homemade bathtub cheeses that are literally made with unpasteurized milk in people’s backyards. It’s a little like saying Sudafed is risky because some criminals make it into meth. And the example they cited about ice cream is because of a 15 year old foul-up involving mixing raw eggs with ice cream mix. If that’s the worst case they can make against dairy, they’re pretty lame. If CSPI is really concerned about dairy food safety, they need to help push for a federal ban on raw milk sales…that would demonstrate their commitment to the issue.
Congress is now planning on spending $350 million on dairy aid in the annual ag appropriations bill. The spending package is supposed to be voted on any day in the House. In the Senate, California’s Barbara Boxer is raising heck because only $60 million of that total is going to cheese purchases, while the larger balance is going to direct payments. Back at the end of the summer, NMPF had urged congressional leaders to spend all the money on cheese, as it would help clear markets, and be a rising tide that lifts all prices. Direct payments are always a lightning rod that upsets someone in the industry, as explained well by dairy blogger Dino Giacomazzi. In the end, compromises in Washington are about politics more than economics, but it would have been nice if they would have just heeded NMPF’s advice in the first place to buy cheese.
Also in the realm of short-term help for farmers, Cooperatives Working Together is in the middle of collecting bids for its ninth herd retirement round since 2003, and the third just in 2009. The cows removed later this year should put the finishing touches on efforts to align supply and demand. Everyone from the Ag Secretary on down recognizes the need to get that done so 2010 starts on a better note than 2009.