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General News    H3'ed 1/3/09

The New York Times and the missing story of milk

Message Linn Cohen-Cole

This is a very good article by Andrew Martin who has been wonderful about providing in depth stories on farming to the New York Times.

As Recession Deepens, So Does Milk Surplus


Martin has been wonderful about providing in depth stories on farming to the New York Times and this diary is not intended to be critical of him but to broaden the context to include ALL dairy farmers, those on the corporate side and those who are not.  

But given the economy and the raids going on across the country against non-corporate raw milk dairy farmers,   
it would make an exceptionally interesting piece to see those raids put into the context of what is happening to dairy farmers across the country, since raw milk dairy farmers exist within a completely different set of economies involving grass-fed cows and milk sold only locally, avoiding any corporate middleman, export issues, or the drastically rising cost of inputs for corn and soy.
Martin's story is describing only the industrial side and gives a window into the whole mess of globalization of milk.  And while it is not mentioned, one can feel in the background, the impact of Monsanto's monopoly over grains, 
click here  
The story is of glut and large swings in the market and farmers being knocked around in it all.
Meanwhile, at a local level (the level we say we are most interested in developing and protecting), there is growing demand  for raw milk

which is also Monsanto's legacy to all this glut of milk (even if they recently sold it).  While there is huge resistance against rBGH-milk here with some concerned about its link to breast cancers, prostate cancers, colon cancers.  So, are we exporting diseases to countries which have previously had low levels of breast cancer.  How much is corporate advertising and fast food multinationals responsible for demand for milk and ice cream and cheeses in countries that never depended on dairy to begin with?  What has this done to health in these countries?
"The bags of milk powder represent a startling reversal of fortune for the dairy industry, which flourished in recent years in part because of a growing appetite for milk, cheese, ice cream and pizza in places like Mexico, Egypt and Indonesia." ...

"Much of the increase was caused by increased demand in developing countries, where a growing middle class replaced starch in their diets with protein sources like meat and dairy products. Some Asian countries had little history of eating dairy products but were introduced to milk and mild cheeses by government nutrition programs or by restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut."

Was our government responsible for getting milk introduced into those nutrition programs as part of "free" trade agreements?   

"In China, for instance, per-person dairy consumption nearly doubled in just five years, to 63 pounds in 2007 from 33 pounds in 2002 (though it remains far below the per-capita consumption in the United States of about 580 pounds), according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The growth translates into the need for nearly 40 billion pounds more milk each year, roughly equal to California’s annual milk production.

"In addition to the increased demand, exports from the American dairy industry benefited from a relatively weak dollar and tight global supplies. For instance, droughts reduced milk production in New Zealand and Australia, two major dairy exporters, allowing American suppliers to fill the gaps.

"American dairy shipments soared to places like Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines. The biggest market, however, was Mexico, where imports from America increased to $853 million in 2007 from $258 million in 2003, according to the Agriculture Department." 
The EU isn't listed.  Is it still the case that the EU won't touch our milk products because of rBGH despite Bill Clinton leaning on them heavily to do so?  
Clinton even pushed Codex to set a standard to allow for rBGH.
"By refusing to set a standard today, Codex has recognized that there is no consensus on rbGH safety in the international scientific community, and that national governments should be able to decide whether rbGH should be permitted in their milk supply," said Jean Halloran, Director of the Consumer Policy Institute at Consumers Union.
"The U.S. has pushed Codex to adopt a standard to ensure the continued export of its dairy products from cows treated with the rbGH drug. However, U.S.-driven efforts to persuade the international community that rbGH is safe have been blocked twice before at Codex, in 1995 and again in 1997, primarily by opposition from European governments." 

Away from all the worries about rBGH and the international battles over sovereignty and inputs of GMO-corn and GMO-soy, with prices controlled monopolistically by Monsanto, local raw milk farmers are putting their cows out to pasture and managing because customers are seeking them out and paying them directly for their milk, enough for the farmers to make a living.  During this economic situation, they may need to retrench a bit if customers do, or they might actually be in a good position since milk is so basic a food.  
Their input costs are very different, that's for sure, since their main fed is grass out in the pasture.

I hope Andrew Martin and others will begin doing stories on the disparities between an industrial farming system that is failing at every level and a vibrant local farming system that is protective during such times as we are going through, versus the complexity, high input, low prices and helplessness for dairy farmers in the industrial globalized system.  
Martin and others in the media need to highlight farm raids and what the USDA is doing to intentionally destroy local farmers - or shall we say "sustainable agriculture"? - who pose a threat to corporate processors in not needing them, in, in fact, surviving because they are doing without them. 
Obama campaigned in support of sustainable agriculture.  His selection of a Monsanto's man Vilsack is a massive betrayal of those campaign promises and of our farmers who are clearly in trouble.  Vilsack was dreamed up anti-democratic laws that remove from communities AND FARMERS the right to keep GMOs out of their area,
and he supports genetic engineering of crops though it comes with patents that turn farmers into tenant farmers on their own land since they aren't allowed to collect seeds and end by only renting them, and though it uses 8-10 more petroleum-based pesticides than normal - that is, oil.  It is, on an economic-level, about monopoly in farming, about increased demand for oil and about sowing global warming, seed by seed.  
That is another back story to the industrial milk glut that needs telling. 
The industrial morass needs to placed alongside questioning why our tax-payers dollars are going to fund USDA raids against horse and buggy Mennonite farmers - traditional local dairy farmers whose customers love them and come out to protest raids against and who hold fund raisers to try to compensate for 10s of 1000s of dollars in stolen and dumped equipment and food - farmers who are practicing EXACTLY what Obama says we must have - sustainable agriculture. 

I just heard from a farmer in Virginia that a dairy farmer with a big operation down the road from him, is closing down.  Seems he says he has never gotten more from the processors for his milk than he did back in 1970.  
That's the industrial story while we're paying the USDA as they increasingly and violently attack and terrorize local farming - dairy and otherwise
 - that is succeeding and is critical protection for all of us during an economic meltdown.


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Met libertarian and conservative farmers and learned an incredible amount about farming and nature and science, as well as about government violations against them and against us all. The other side of the fence is nothing like what we've been (more...)
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