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Gallon of ignorance

Agriculture.com Staff 07/02/2009 @ 7:53am

Yesterday morning I was listening to an AM radio show from a Chicago station. It was about 6:00 AM and the host was reading about the problems in the dairy industry with low milk prices.

It did not take more than a few seconds to realize the host did not have any grasp of the dairy business at all and he as much as admitted it. What he could not understand is why a dairy would sell their product at less than it cost them to produce it. As far as he was concerned, the dairy had two choices. It could hold the milk off the market until prices improved or simply pour the milk down the drain.

I wanted to call and fill the host in about the dairy business. Dairies sell their product by the hundredweight. Every day is another day of production. It is perishable and cannot be stored until prices improve like we grain farmers do with a bin of corn or soybeans. I wanted to ask him why would anyone destroy their product and take a 100% loss instead of a 10% or 20% loss just to make a point.

As much as I wanted to call in, I did not because I am not in the dairy business. Since it was 6:00 AM and this was a station covering several states, I thought there would be someone more knowledgeable than me listening and would call. There had to be dairy barn with a radio on somewhere in the four or more states the station covered where someone with real dairy experience would call in with the facts.

Then there was a caller. It was a man from Michigan. I thought now there will be someone saying what is needed to be said about current market conditions with facts about dairying. I was wrong.

The man from Michigan told the host that ever since ethanol had been introduced it has made a mess of prices and this was another example. That was it. There were no more calls about low prices in the dairy industry.

What conclusions can be made from this? First, I am surprised at the radio show host's complete lack of knowledge about supply and demand. This is a person who I enjoy listening to as he takes a no-nonsense approach to many of the same things I am troubled by happening today.

He reflected an attitude I hear on talk shows and read in newspapers (not this one, of course) that treats farmers as if they do not know how to run their business. They insinuate and sometimes simply say we farmers are out here making the same mistakes over and over. We are not capable of learning from them. The solutions offered by these people who spend their day sitting at a desk and computer (with weekends off) start off with the words, "Why don't they just…?" To them the answer seems so obvious and simple when all that is showing is their complete ignorance of the entire situation.

This short-lived event on the radio was also a missed opportunity to not let ethanol be blamed for creating a problem. A by-product of ethanol is the DDGs that are typically fed to cattle. It is excellent cattle feed and the hopper bottom railroad cars that are loaded with the DDGs at the ethanol plant are headed for dairies.

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