By Randy Wokatsch
Some of you may have read my article regarding “political correctness” in the dairy industry. The editor has been kind enough to allow me to follow up. I’ll continue where I left off.
One expansion on a point I made previously inferring small dairy farms are better stewards of the land: In my part of the world (Marathon County), we’ve had tremendous soil erosion this spring. I’ve never seen creeks and rivers so brown. Larger farms usually have bigger equipment and like larger fields. Fence lines often go out, and so does narrow strip cropping. Where a crop farmer took over after a dairy farmer, there is no hay in the rotation. Even some grassed waterways are gone. The results I’ve seen have been little short of disastrous.
What do using rBST, organic products and GMO crops have in common? Of course they all relate to food, but also, they have been used extensively as marketing tools. Consumers, not so long ago, were happy to have wholesome, affordable and safe food. We’re now told demands placed on farmers are “consumer driven.”
We also hear farmers need to “tell their story” and we all need to “agvocate.” At great cost, we’ve stood by idly as marketers have been telling the wrong stories for years. Hormone-free, rBST-free, non-GMO, organic and other labels have planted the seeds of doubt in many consumers' minds. We’ve abandoned science in favor of emotion. Now, not surprisingly, these doubts have turned into demands. I’m all for “agvocating,” but I resent being tasked to undo all the false advertising that’s been done to gain a market edge.
Our farm recently marked 50 years of Grade A milk production. During that time, we’ve had not one antibiotic violation. While I take great pride in this fact, it doesn’t help us pay our bills.
On another issue, there is an often-referenced study that tail docking was found to provide “no increase in milk quality.” Why wasn’t this the question: When done correctly, does tail docking harm cows? The answer would have been “no,” and then it would have been a management choice for farmers. Pigs, sheep, dogs, horses and other animals have a long and continuing history of tail docking with little controversy. Does it help their milk quality?
Have you been paying attention to the ongoing debate over the Wisconsin transportation budget? Good and safe roads are critical to everyone in this state and vital to agriculture. As a conservative, I understand Gov. Scott Walker’s reluctance to raise taxes. However, kicking the can down the road (pun intended) by borrowing more money is unacceptable. The last I heard, 22 cents of each transportation dollar is going for debt service. Please let our governor and/or your legislators know it’s time to be responsible and raise taxes somewhere.
I want to commend Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel on his outstanding efforts to help the displaced Grassland patrons find a market for their milk.
In closing, most farm organizations have a resolutions process of some kind where farmers can make their concerns heard. So many issues in agriculture need to be addressed and turned around. Hopefully, my articles have spurred some conversations. I participate. Now it’s your turn!
Wokatsch farms near Marathon City.