Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

Published in Farmshine (October 19, 2007 issue)

“Killer cow emissions” was the title of a Los Angeles Times editorial this week (Oct. 15), painting a big red bulls-eye on dairy and beef production.

It began on the subject of methane coming from both ends of the cow and from manure storage. It concluded with a scolding of USDA for it’s role in facilitating the beef and dairy check-offs, stating: “the government should not only get out of the business of promoting unhealthful and environmentally destructive foods, it should be actively discouraging them.”

The editorial claimed the millions of dollars raised each year for marketing campaigns like “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” are “close to” a government-mandated campaign to promote cigarette smoking.

Those are fighting words.

The LA Times bemoaned methane from cattle as causing more dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and greater climate impact than the entire transportation sector.

Interestingly, the editorial also called for more science and better efficiency of cattle production methods, especially in South America so that less grazing land is needed to preserve more forests. This is odd when we consider the “rbST-free” milk labeling push, seeking to turn back the clock on the science of production efficiency (i.e. more milk from fewer cows).

It’s time to stand up and be counted.

Nothing we do to appease them, will ever be enough to silence the radicals who are undoubtedly behind these subtle and not so subtle attacks. Each time the dairy industry “gives in,” we simply empower their next attack.

The LA Times editorial was long, covered many points, and it referenced the United Nations, which has issued warning statements about the global impact of animal agriculture. The animal rights activists have figured out how to go mainstream to accomplish their extremist agenda.

If dairy farmers do not start banding together, speaking up, and stand up for one another… this entire industry and way of life is threatened for generations to come.

The good news is: the average consumer still has a lot of confidence in America’s farmers. Despite efforts to erode it, that trust is basically intact. But it needs reinforcing. The only people who can reinforce that trust are farmers themselves.

Consumers want and need to hear from you! They aren’t nearly as interested in what the retailers, processors and cooperatives have to say. In fact they are skeptical of the motives of retailers and processors. They want to hear what farmers have to say.

It’s time for an end-run around the middle: going right to the consumer with a basic message of hard work, good husbandry, environmental stewardship, healthy and wholesome dairy products.

It’s time for dairy farmers to speak with one voice. It’s time for the public to hear from dairy farmers! Dairy Marketing Inc. and the milk cooperatives are not getting this job done. There is way too much defensive posturing going on and not enough offense on the field.

During a series of producer choice meetings in Lansing, Michigan in September, a veterinarian from Ohio asked me this rhetorical question: “Who’s behind all of this? Who is trying to turn the United States into a third world country?”

Our security as a nation lies firmly in our ability to feed ourselves, and the world. Who benefits if we lose our ability to do that? What happens then to freedom, independence and the great principles our democracy is founded upon?

As one Michigan dairy farmer stated during those September producer choice meetings: “Who is controlling the messages out there? I came to this meeting because it’s time to stand up for freedom for farmers and consumers. It’s time to be freedom fighters.”

Think about it.

Reprinted with permission.


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