By Jerome Viste
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin — It is almost amusing to see the trend of dairy farming in Wisconsin today under the urging of the University and Department of Agriculture claiming the need to expand to be able to keep up with demands to "Feed the World". Europe and Asia are at all-time high milk production and have surplus of their own and dropping prices to deal with.
It seems that there is a manifesto has been put in place to put small farmers out of business as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, for those leaders it is the small farms that have stabilized the industry through the decades and continue to do so, even while fewer in numbers. One of the advantages the small family farms enjoy is the ability to contain their operation within their own holdings and not have to spend a major part of their income in transporting field forage crops and the immense amount of manure that is generated at a central location. That’s a huge advantage and may save some of the small farm operations and make them sustainable.
The stewardship and ecological responsibility becomes secondary to the need to dispose of the massive amount of waste that is now a disposal problem all over. The reliance on maximum spreading amounts that were dictated by the voluntary nutrient management plans has shown that it does not work. Stewardship and ecological responsibility have been given a secondary role in large-scale production as brought out in the increasing problems of the last few years. There is a new effort to improve the enforcement capabilities of the nutrient management plans, but that same problem will remain regardless of the new regulations, that problem is enforcement - nothing will have changed – as before, Fridays and weekend spreading will be unchallenged, unless by citizen observation and recording, too often after-the–fact.
These comments are based on my own experience of 43 years of producing milk for the Grade A Chicago Fluid Milk Market, which historically paid substantially more than the Grade B market which consisted of cheese and other dairy product manufacturing. Grade A milk mandated an inspection twice yearly by Chicago Board of Health inspectors and quality had to be maintained. Under Wisconsin law for manufacturing milk – less than Grade A - producers, are inspected by the processor who buys the milk. In other words, if you are a producer who processes your own manufacturing grade milk, you are your own inspector for quality control.
You can see where this is going.
To continue to produce in excess of the market needs and not to respond to those needs with curtailed production is playing with disaster. This has been proven several times and Grade A farmers operated on a quota system that worked well all those years. There was no effort by unknown forces to get farmers to expand with entirely borrowed resources, other than the University push to 'get bigger', in order to compete with California for the Dairyland title, and help maintain the banking industry.