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0708 PD: No strings attached

Darren Olsen Published on 25 April 2008

Before all of you go off wondering what Progressive Dairy Publishing has gone and done with one of its editors, I am here to tell you that Walter Cooley is safe and sound somewhere in the Midwest as this edition goes to print.

Before he left, he asked me to write the editorial. I am grateful for the opportunity to write to all of you once again. Don’t worry, Walt will be back for the next edition.

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There is something I do that I dare say less than 10 other Americans do. When I sit down and think about it, I sometimes wonder how I got myself into this position and have to laugh at the paths my life sometimes travels. The thing I do is serve as editor of a magazine dedicated to the byproducts of animal production manure. There are times I wish I could record and share the comments I receive when I divulge this fact in a room of non-agriculturists. Most, however, probably couldn’t be printed anyway.

The fact of the matter is that most people don’t realize that the only thing animal agriculture produces more of than meat and dairy products is manure. It is something most producers have come to work with on their operations and continue to proactively make a part of their individual management plans. Society, on the other hand, is having a hard time dealing with several aspects of the changing landscape of modern agriculture, and I get bombarded with comments that shows just how detached they are.

I don’t blame them for some of their perceptions, but reality to them can sometimes lead to difficulties for producers. Just as the fallout from the recent issues at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. has impacted the industry, so do any suspected reports that come across the media-hungry plates of most Americans. Sadly, they represent a very small percentage of what is happening within the industry, but it is what most people cling to.

I do not deny that there are abuses within the ranks of animal production, but I also realize that abuses cannot continue very long before either business or government intervention take their toll. It would be great if it never affected the work so many do, but it does, and we are all left to pay the price.

When Walt first mentioned that he was pursuing animal welfare issues, I had the knee-jerk reaction that many others in the industry have. Most producers are doing a fine job without intervention, so why go and poke at the hornets’ nest. But I have to admit that the idea of having a way to verify what so many producers already do has merit in the long run.

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In working with Ag Nutrient Management, I deal with the issues of government and government regulations on a regular basis. There are times I feel there is too much, but I have also seen where changes have led to improvements for producers. It is a balancing act – how much do you regulate and how much do you allow for freedom to innovate and self-regulate. There are no easy answers.

What I will say is that if there is a balanced way for the dairy industry to show what they are doing to proactively deal with issues most Americans feel there are problems with, the easier it will be to continue to produce milk. In a world dominated by “American Idol,” Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears, image is everything, for good or for bad. The better we can, as an industry build our image, the better it is for everyone. It might take the onlooking of a third party, but that might be what we need. An honest assessment with no strings attached. Who can argue with that?

And so the dairy industry goes on. And so will I. I turn the reins back over to Walt and will return back to my office, where hay, manure and management continue to be my priority. I look forward to seeing many of you there. PD

Darren Olsen
Editor
FG, EL, ANM

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