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Letters to the editor: Animal wellbeing, questions for DFA

David Macedo & Alvin Matzke Published on 23 December 2008

Dear Editor,
On the day that I recently hosted a Dairy Beef Quality Assurance program at my auction market facility, I was struck by the fact that on the front page of USA Today was an item that showed that 74 American Bar Association-approved law schools now offer courses in animal rights versus 12 in 1999. Why should we care about this?

As people involved in the livestock industry, we are facing more and more external input on how we handle and market our cattle than ever before.

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That is why as an industry it is so critical that we address issues of importance to consumers on a proactive basis. If we don’t promote the positive things about our industry, who will? The seminar that I hosted was sponsored by the California Beef Council through state checkoff funds and included discussions about not only the importance of market dairy cows in the national beef supply, but it also focused on animal handling and welfare issues.

Many of these topics have become front and center since early 2008 when an activist group released footage of culled dairy animals being mishandled at a packing plant. Consumers deserve to know the true story about livestock production and how the majority of us do our best to handle and market cattle in a responsible manner. We’ll never change the activists’ minds; however, it’s the average consumer’s opinions that we need to worry about. For that reason, any opportunity for us as industry participants to be proactive in educating ourselves and our employees about important issues, such as animal well-being, are critical to the overall success of animal agriculture.

As dairy producers, you are an important part of the beef industry. I encourage you to embrace that role and find ways to promote your commitment to producing a wholesome, safe product.
—David Macedo
Vice President
Livestock Marketing Association
Tulare Sales Yard, Inc.

Dear Editor,
We are all aware of the events that have taken place this past year, including Wall Street’s crisis, conflict in the Mid-East, immigration debate and last but not least for us in the dairy industry the alleged flow of illegal moneys from Dairy Farmers of America Inc. (DFA) into a few accounts without following proper procedures.

On May 8, 2008, a letter was mailed to all members of DFA, stating former CEO Gary Hanman and former board chairman Herman Brubaker were found to have inappropriately shuffled funds to the tune of millions during the year 2001. Then on October 14, 2008, another letter was mailed to DFA members stating unauthorized and improper payments were paid for more than four years to Buckey Jones, again by former CEO Gary Hanman to the supposed tune of $185,500. The first letter I received was most disturbing to say the least, but the second letter has motivated me to seek some answers, which have never come forth.

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Here are my outstanding questions:

1. Why did it take seven years to uncover the unauthorized and misappropriations of $1,000,000, and how was this accomplished? What happened during each year’s audit, which I understand is mandatory by state law?

2. Why just pat the “good old boys” on the back and tell them to just return the $1,000,000 plus interest (at whatever rate) and DFA will not push for any further prosecution?

3. Why does DFA have double standards?

a. If a PIC count is too high, SCC is too high, or water is added in milk, we the members or violators are penalized, refer to March 2008 newsletter.

b. Why is DFA always involved in some kind of legal action defending themselves? (See DFA Letter dated October 14, 2008.)

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c. Is DFA money being paid for the defense of a former CEO and board chairman?

d. Why is DFA not taking a stronger stance on illegal workers/immigrants? Refer to newsletter June 12, 2008.

e. An Associated Press newswire headline in Progressive Dairyman, Issue 15, October 15, 2008 reads, “Louisiana farmer pleads guilty to adulterating of milk.”

According to court documents Dennis Finch, a dairy farmer in Independence, Louisiana, admitted last month to adding salt and water to his milk that he sent to DFA. To me, this infraction is not nearly as heinous a crime as theirs of $1,000,000.

4. How many other people were really involved in the alleged improper payments of funds? Someone had to order these actions, and others had to be the recipients of the alleged improper payments.

5. I cannot find out the salary that had been paid to former CEO Gary Hanman or board chairman Herman Brubacker or even the present CEO Richard Smith.

Why isn’t membership able to be informed as to what management is being paid from our funds? Everyone knows exactly what we receive for the “fruits of our labor”? Hence again this is a set of “double standards.”

After reviewing all of the above information, isn’t it interesting that DFA’s board of directors and present management through its CEO and President Richard Smith and Chairman James Camerlo did not and have not to date pressed for criminal charges to be filed or caused to be filed against Hanman and Brubaker and Jones, but they went after a member producer in Louisiana for altering milk?

Why are Hanman and Brubaker and Jones able to be free and walking the streets? When are we, as members and owners of DFA, going to come together and at last force our top level management to be accountable to us and be accountable for the alleged crimes they have committed?

Maybe never, but if we as ordinary people don’t stand up and call the “powers to be” to stop and demand justice through from the U.S. Justice Department, then we are no better than those corrupt people.

I have been informed by DFA’s legal council that the Justice Department does not file criminal charges against these people, then we, as members of DFA, must do so to bring justice to our association.

If we DFA members/owners don’t, we have no rights to complain about what happens in our organization. If I am right or wrong, please let me know.
­—Alvin Matzke
Dairy producer
Living Oak Trust
Westmoreland, Kansas

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