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Read online content from popular columnists, including Ryan Dennis, Baxter Black and Yevet Tenney, as well as comments from Progressive Dairy editors.

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Dog fighting is a touchy subject. Yet an NFL football player has been accused of fighting dogs. It’s in the news.

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Recent events have reminded me that we all share one very interconnected dairy world. Take the latest milk production statistics, for example.

In August, milk production was up 3.6 percent over last August with more than 11,000 more cows milking than in July. The statistics don’t lie. Milk prices are up, and dairy producers can afford to keep cows in their herds longer. So what are some doing – adding cattle and/or planning for expansions. This month’s issue contains several articles that address preparing to grow or expand a dairy business.

Last month, Texas saw its own expansion as Hilmar Cheese’s new processing plant came online (see page 30). The open house and first shipments of milk into the facility have had more than just the locals talking for months. It will most likely still have the rest of the industry trying to gauge exactly how much the dairy industry in west Texas and its panhandle will continue to grow.

Also, these past few weeks I’ve been following with increasing interest news about the Social Security Administration’s plans to send out more than 140,000 letters informing employers that they are employing someone whose Social Security number doesn’t match the agency’s database. The plans are difficult to keep up with. What was supposed to be a mail date in September was postponed. (See page 4 for more details). It’s anyone’s guess how the plans will turn out now. By the time you receive your copy of this issue, the legality of the administration’s proposal may have changed again. If a court order against sending the letters is lifted, see page 14 for more information about how to protect yourself and do all that you can to retain your employees.

So with these and other issues (high feed prices, labor availability, etc.) still looming, there’s certainly not a dearth of things to talk about heading into World Dairy Expo and the fall trade show season.

I hope the market’s high milk prices will allow you to splurge for a day off the dairy to meet with other producers. Attendance at trade shows can most certainly relieve emotional stress as you talk about industry issues with others. But they are also a place to learn about (and drool over) new technology and equipment.

If you’re in Madison, stop by Booth #441 in the Arena Building. We’re giving away a free trip to see the other side of the dairying world – World Ag Expo in Tulare, California – in 2008. And if I don’t see you there, look for me outside the Badger Dairy Club’s tent, eating a grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve yet to find in this world a food made with dairy products that I like more than those sandwiches. PD

Once upon a time there was a Grasshopper. He loved to dance and sing. All day in the summer he danced and sang to his heart’s content. He watched the ants carrying bits of grain and corn into their tunnels. He laughed at their labors.

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A big debate rages about the five-year $286 billion Farm Bill being considered by Congress. Its supporters on congressional ag committees are mostly from farm states, which is to be expected.

At the same time:

• The percent of unionized laborers in the workforce continues its decade-long plunge.

• America continues to lose manufacturing industries: steel, automobile, shoes, oil, mining, lumber, tools, electronics and publishing.

• The economic well-being for workers stagnates despite increasing minimum wage and a booming Wall Street.

• Illegal Mexican immigrants contribute mightily to the U.S. economy, yet they still have enough to send money home to their family in Mexico.

• China, India, Philippines and east Asian and South American manufacturing and natural resource economies prosper.

All of these tectonic forces are related.

The Farm Bill is all about subsidizing farmers to ensure an abundant, cheap food supply for consumers. Over the years, we producers in agriculture have considered banding together, negotiating with a common voice. Dairymen and grain growers, among others, have made visible protests, all to naught.

What if 50 years ago farmers had been able to organize and barter for higher prices for their lamb, corn, beef, soybeans, wheat, poultry, avocados, oranges, pork and milk? It would have been the equivalent of “unionizing” farmers. The resulting higher food prices would have required more protectionist legislation for Australian lamb, Canadian wheat, Dominican Republican sugar, Chinese cotton, Argentinean beef, Mexican vegetables and dairy products and Brazilian soybeans.

But, in response to consumer demand for cheaper food, I think politicians would have been forced to remove restrictions on imports, just as they have done for industries like energy, steel, clothing, timber, fishing, mining and automobiles. This would have resulted in an increasing dependence on politically shaky Third World countries for our daily bread. Today we would be at their mercy. To put it in perspective, consider our present perilous dependence on the Middle East for oil.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25,000 people die each day from hunger.

So, to those senators and representatives from urban districts who think subsidized farming is extravagant, I say, “It is. . . think of it as famine insurance.” PD

Well, it’s official; I’m an adult. I know this, not because I’m married and have two kids or because my hair is thinning.

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As we pulled off of California Highway 101 into Gilroy, I was assailed by the pungent odor of garlic. When I rolled down the window my eyes began to water and my nose tingled. A blind man driving down the road wouldn’t need a sign to tell him he had arrived at the Annual Garlic Festival!

If there were any secular or religious worshipers of garlic, Gilroy would serve as their Mecca. Yet it is not alone in its oleic appeal.

I flew into Wenatchee, Washington, one summer. As we deboarded the airplane, the pleasant aroma of the apple orchards filled the air. I began to salivate.

Another time I saw a bumper sticker on a fertilizer salesman’s truck in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley near Bakersfield, California. It read, “I © Ammonia.” To each his own.

Certain smells can bring back vivid memories. I spent a lot of my working life in the feedlots. When I drive through towns like Hereford, Texas, or Dodge City, Kansas, my mind fills my nostrils with scents of front-end loaders cleaning pens, moldy hay, fermenting grain, Terramycin on my fingers, rumen contents and feedyard dust. It’s an olfactory bouquet that still gives me a warm feeling. On the other hand, when I smell freshly mown hay or a farmer out cutting his 5-acre lawn, I roll up the window and grab my allergy pills!

We spent a day at the garlic festival and ate or tasted a panoply of garlic concoctions: sausage, chicken, bread, pork, prawns, artichokes, rattlesnake, ice cream, squid, potatoes, corn on the cob, candy, oysters, honey, caulking, house paint, deodorant, fly spray, time-release suppositories and mouthwash.

It has qualities that are touted, particularly as being “good for the heart.” Although that is disputed, it is certainly a good excuse should the ‘patient’ be shunned by friends and family for having halitosis strong enough to drive a hyena off a bucket of baboon livers.

“Whoops, sorry darlin’. I chew this clove of garlic to prevent artistic fibrillation. I think your bangs will grow back!”

Next morning as we were leaving Gilroy we remarked that we could no longer smell that deep, penetrating garlic odor. Then an oncoming vehicle swerved wildly, and I saw the driver grabbing at his nose.

Maybe, we observed, we had become used to it.

Moral: One man’s hog farm is another man’s garlic shampoo. PD