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Archive for the ‘Call for Action’ Category

Hello everyone, I am sorry for my delay in posting from our rally on Oct 18 2012. It had been my hope that some miracle would have happened and we would be onto some concrete level ground and would have a solution. The “Polly Anna” in me was hoping for a “Kumbaya” moment and we would have quick resolve.

On October 18, 2012 we again left from Goshen at about 630 am on a beautiful bus provided by Western Milling and Novus International (allied industry helping us in our plight). I am very grateful for there support and financial aid to provide this transportation. It was a great way to travel, communicate, laugh, share our angst. It was fun. It was nice to not have to fight the traffic and high fuel prices it was also very comfortable and spacious with a wonderful driver. We were in good hands.

We had a wonderful turnout at the rally. About the same numbers as the first rally but this time was many, many different faces.

There were some great speakers that represented dairy families in California. (Click on the link to see)

 Great speakers shared their stories 

Two of my favorite people spoke too, Mary Cameron and Mario Simoes Sr.

They had and open forum in which I went up to share with the group that Secretary Ross had called me the night before. (She wanted to let me and others know that they were getting our phone messages, emails, and faxes). She had mentioned that the task force was meeting and she was hoping to get some immediate relief for dairy producers.  (My words to the rally folks click here)

I felt hopeful that this rally would impact not only the Secretary and the CDFA but also be heard by the processors who have been fighting any change we have requested to be made. They are feeling the impact of less milk, yet they continue to dig in their heels and expect for us to go back to our old ways.

I even sent a letter to one of the task force members, Sue Taylor, from Leprino Foods. You can view this letter on the website Rally For California Families

She did not even have the graciousness to email me back a response. Frustrating to be so ignored while my quality milk arrives to them daily and makes them millions of dollars. I was reaching out and hoping for some unity….yeah right….”Polly Anna” disappointed again.

The task force did meet on Oct 23 and 24th. Below is Western United Dairymen’s well written account of the two days. I could not help but feel that possibly Secretary Karen Ross was, like I, feeling a little “Polly Anna” in thinking that they might be able to agree on something. I am glad she witnessed for herself how stubborn and uncaring the processors are. Like spoiled children, they have been used to getting their way. She saw the dairymen in that meeting standing together, standing as one. She witnessed the line in the sand. She witnessed that the processors do not care about the producers. Their only care is their profits because of cheap milk and it doesn’t matter that it is at the demise of generations of California dairy families.

The processors feathers are so ruffled they have actually lashed out at Milk Producers Council (Letter from DIC to MPC).

They have the nerve to tell us that they are protecting us from ourselves. They act as if we purposely oversupply the milk. They say it’s all our fault. I say to them….take care of yourselves. Buy only the milk you need and pay us a fair price. If we oversupply it then our co-ops with their base limits will handle it with those that are overproduction. How dare they be so arrogant and treat us like naughty children who do not know how to play nice. Shame on them.

The bright spot of these two days was the fact that Secretary Karen Ross stated that she is expecting a petition for a hearing (as she states in the below letter). She promises to handle it expeditiously. As I am writing this I have not had confirmation of that filing but I did receive a phone call from our DFA Western Area Chairman George Mertens, stating that a petition was being drafted (by DFA, CDI, and LOL) adjusting the 4b price to be in alignment with the Federal 3 price. The petition will be filed by Dairy Farmers of America, California Dairies, Inc, and Land O’Lakes. These are our three major co-ops in California and they are joining together.

I am happy to say that I believe this is moving in a positive direction and uniting is what we need as dairy men and cooperatives. This has been our trouble and has been a determent in our industry for too long. Let us just hope that she does handle this quickly and we dairy farmers can be in “sound economic relationship” with the rest of the nation.

Also Western United’s board members directed staff to craft language to make the change and organize bipartisan support in Sacramento for the legislation for our 4b price to be in alignment. So basically if CDFA can’t do it then let legislation step in. Read more here

Time though, is money…so hopefully the quickest solution for us would be when she receives the petition she will act as quick as the law allows and we can see some relief soon…so many of us depend on it.

Group meets to address immediate and long-term challenges facing the state’s dairy industry. State ag secretary is “impressed by the progress made.”

Source: Western United Dairymen Weekly Update

California’s newly formed 28-member Dairy Future Task Force — composed of dairy producers, processors and cooperatives — held its first meeting this week to address immediate and long-term challenges facing the state’s dairy industry.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross announced the panel’s creation earlier this summer, after hearing a petition by producer groups to adjust the state’s whey factor in Class 4b minimum milk pricing formula. The action came in the face of skyrocketing drought-related feed costs, forcing many producers into bankruptcy.


California Dairy Future Task Force members
David Ahlem, Hilmar
Joey Airoso, Tipton
Joe Augusto, Visalia
Tom Barcellos, Tipton
Marcus Benedetti, Petaluma
Ben Curti, Tulare
Rochelle De Groot, Hanford
Joe DeHoog, Ontario
Lucas Deniz, Petaluma
Eric Erba, Visalia
Frank Fereira, Red Bluff
Mike Gallo, Atwater
Dino Giacomazzi, Hanford
Dominic Grossi, Novato
Scott Hofferber, San Bernardino
Dennis Leonardi, Ferndale
Steve Maddox, Riverdale
J.T. Maldonado, Hanford
Tony Mendes, Riverdale
George Mertens, Sonoma
Rick Michel, Waterford
John Oostdam, San Jacinto
Brian Pacheco, Kerman
Ray Souza, Turlock
Sue Taylor, Denver
Arlan Van Leeuwen, Oakdale
Sybrand Vander Dussen, Chino
Simon Vander Woude, Merced


Secretary Ross issued a statement following the task force’s meeting: “The Dairy Future Task Force is made up of dairy producers, processors and cooperatives asked to come together to find common ground upon which they can build a new, more stable and contemporary path for the dairy industry. The first session, held October 23-24, provided an opportunity to agree on a common fact base and develop a sense of what the group wants to accomplish in the coming months. The task force achieved alignment around a shared vision for the future of the California dairy industry, which is a significant accomplishment and a key step toward long-term success. The initial session was designed to set the stage for the group to identify and build strategic pillars that will result in a robust, profitable, demand-driven dairy industry. I was impressed by the progress made and look forward to continuing this important work. I commend the group’s members for embracing their task and the difficult but critical discussions it entails.

“Based on the discussion of concepts for potential short-term solutions, CDFA anticipates receiving a petition shortly and will evaluate it on an expedited basis. I very much look forward to working with the talented and passionate producers and processors who are willing to provide leadership to this very important sector of the agricultural community.”

In a background statement issued by CDFA, the department said the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) will have administrative oversight of the task force. Meetings will not be open to the public to “eliminate public posturing, hyperbole, and positioning for political gain.”

According to the background information, task force members were invited as individuals–not as representatives of associations or other organizations. There will be “significant public vetting of various stages of the task force’s work, which will strive to create consensus around short- and long-term solutions.”

The CDFA noted that several years ago CMAB commissioned a study which provided concepts for long-term sustainability and industry growth for the California dairy industry. That report, by global management consultant McKinsey and Company, is serving as a foundation for discussions on long-term solutions.

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Standing Up For Dairy Farmers!

Hundreds of California Dairy farmers united yesterday 9/13/12 and headed to the state capitol in Sacramento to be heard. Some took buses, others carpooled and even more made the trek alone.  Click here for the video of the speakers from yesterdays rally.

September 4th a lawsuit was filed against the CDFA . We dairy farmers have asked three times for a fair price for our milk. Three times we have been denied. Secretary Ross is not following  the law. The law is very clear, “the price announced by CDFA must be in reasonable alignment with prices paid for comparable milk produced and sold around the country”. This law has not been followed. California dairy farmers have continued to be paid $2.00 per hundred weight less for our milk than our neighboring states. That is 20 million dollars we have been robbed.

We are not asking for a bail out. We are not asking that this be paid by the tax payers. We do not want the price of dairy products to go up in the stores. We ONLY want our fair share.

What is fair and balanced about the processors making record profits and dairy farmers losing thousands upon thousands of dollars every month.

Three hundred dairy families are already gone. Another 100 dairy families are to exit. This is a crisis! In any other industry it would have been deemed so.

I wanted to be part of this historic moment. It started by two dairy farmers, Jim Wilson and Gary Van Ryn having dinner with their families and feeling frustrated and tired they decided that they needed to do something about it. They contacted Kevin Kruse from Western Milling and together they got the ball rolling. I immediately jumped on board for this effort. We have laid down too long.  I mean, If I am going out I am going standing tall with my boots on. I, like the rest of us there have had enough.

I have been disgusted with our leadership that is suppose to be representing us and have failed. I mean they throw out words say they are doing their best. They plan informational meetings to see what will be the best course of action. They remind us at every meeting that things are bound to get better…. Blah Blah Blah

Western United Dairymen, our largest dairy organization that exists because of the dues that dairy farmers pay was not there yesterday. Our co-ops like California Dairy Inc, Land O’Lakes, Hilmar Cheese, and DFA were not there. Why you ask??? I will tell you why. They are worried about “upsetting” Secretary Ross. They do not want to ruin their “great” relationship. They don’t want to lose the “great” communication that they have with the Secretary and CDFA. Really?? We have been nothing but denied any request that we have made. This is politics. This is our business and lives that they are dealing with. This isn’t about a popularity contest. It’s not about who she “likes” the most. She is a public servant. It is her job not to make decisions based on who she likes the most. This isn’t personal. This isn’t about giving the teacher an apple for a better grade. It is about the law and our rights. It is about what is fair!

What was confirmed to me yesterday was who it was truly looking out for the dairy farmers and that, was in majority, US! The dairy farmers standing together united! We did have political support with David Valadao and a few more public officers. We did have Milk Producers Council there and we had California Dairy Campaign too. This showed me finally what I have felt for a very long time that Western “United” Dairymen is not very united. Their directors should have been formally informed by their CEO of this protest and they should have tried to have been there even if they did not want to make a statement. As for the co-ops they say they have to keep an even balance between the processor and farmer. Their absence shows me who they really stand for, and it wasn’t for us. Upon this paragraph I feel that this quote I found this morning is most appropriate:

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” 
― William Lloyd Garrison

We know that yesterdays rally was not going to bring immediate change.  We know that it is just the start. What I do know is that we stood together, bonded, sharing our fears for our future, and felt strength within our numbers. We stood together in pride of what we do and in our faith of God to give us continued strength.

We are meeting again next week to decide on out next step. So stay tuned…We have only just begun!

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I came across this video this morning and I say AMEN! Finally…it’s said! A voice for us.

I am continually saddened by people who disparage or dismiss the importance of Agriculture. I am saddened by those who are so easily swayed by radical agenda. What saddens me most is that because there are so many removed from Agriculture they just believe the misinformation they are throwing out there.  Earlier this year, an article featured on Yahoo! Education listed three agriculture-degrees in a list naming the top five worthless degrees. Just imagine where we would be without these degrees. These students make it pretty clear!

Farmers Fight is a student-led initiative to reconnect American society to the world of agriculture. Beginning with university students, Farmers Fight encourages consumers to ask where their food comes from, and give students, faculty, public officials, and farmers and ranchers an opportunity to become “agvocates” for the agriculture community. This is a must see!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yFoGib8AfZo

Let’s make this viral….Let’s Stand Up and Fight

Thank you for making this video! Thank you!

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Tis’ the season and most of us are feeling the pressure of getting everything done. Since I have started my cheese business this adds the additional pressure of marketing and participating in the retail part of the holidays. I am grateful to mark my second Christmas season as a cheesemaker.

I do miss that I haven’t been able to blog every week like I used too. It is always a great outlet for me. I have always strived to share with those that are removed from the farms and the farmers. Chica (who is doing well and still very sassy) is a great partner to help show consumers a little bit of what we do on the farm and show our connection with our animals and our land.

 I do find great connection with consumers when I work the farmers markets or do demo’s at the stores. It is a great opportunity to explain what we do and clarify any questions or misconceptions that someone might have. Most people are good, kind and grateful to speak to an actual farmer.

In doing a demo recently I had a women come up and asked what it was like on our farm. She stated that it sounded like I treated my animals well, “but most do not…it is awful”. I had asked her if she had been to a farm. “No but I read about it”, she stated. I answered, “well in this day and age you really don’t think you can believe everything you read”? She said “of course not…but the animal rights people wouldn’t lie”. (BREATHING….CALMING myself)

I explained that there might be another agenda behind the group. If you want to fully know what is happening on farms that she should visit a farm and see for herself. She should look at both sides before she judges. She seemed open to that and I gave her some references for her to obtain this information. One of my favorites is the attached in the link below.

The Food Dialogues. The US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance have put this together to start the conversation. It’s a great opportunity for consumers to start a conversation with the farmers that bring the food to their tables. They have done a great job and I am proud of my friend Dino Giacomazzi who is a great spokesman for us dairy farmers.

 

“99% of farmers and ranchers say protecting the environment is an important goal and practice.”

http://www.fooddialogues.com/?gclid=CKCz9qbJ_6wCFacZQgod7D7SRw

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As a modern farmer, we are called conventional.

This is what the dictionary says about conventional.

con·ven·tion·al (kn-vnsh-nl)

adj.

1. Based on or in accordance with general agreement, use, or practice; customary: conventional symbols; a conventional form of address.
2. Conforming to established practice or accepted standards; traditional: a conventional church wedding.
3.

a. Devoted to or bound by conventions to the point of artificiality; ceremonious.
b. Unimaginative; conformist
 
Look at that description….we are anything BUT conventional. We are always looking for ways to improve. Become more efficient more sustainable. We look for new ways to comfort our animals. We are open to new things and all of benefits that technology can bring. We do not always agree on all advancements but we are open-minded and look at all sides and benefits…….. We are “PROGRESSIVE”!
 

pro-gres-sive

 /prəˈgrɛsɪv/

–adjective

1.

favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are.
2.

making progress toward better conditions; employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods, etc.: a progressive community.
3.

characterized by such progress, or by continuous improvement.
 
I had this conversation a long time ago with my friend and fellow blogger Dino Giacomazzi. It has stayed with me. I feel that if we must change the labels that are put upon us.
 
I bring this up as I had a customer at farmers market who asked me, “Do you take care of your land”? My first reaction was hurt. Real hurt. I took a moment and a breath. I realized that she has heard some things that would lead her to believe that dairy farmers do not take care of our land or are not sustainable. I looked at her and calmly said…”It is the place where I live. I drink its water. Eat from its bounty. I am the third generation to do so and hope to have it for the fourth to do the same. I hope to see my grandchildren drink  and eat from it”. Why would I not take care of my life, my future”?
 
She looked at me and said “I never thought of it that way…of course”.
 
That was enough for me to know that, even though in the smallest of scales, I must continue to reach out and help to teach those that do not understand. We need to educate and be proactive and explain to those that do not know that we are “progressive” and we are here to feed them, and the world.
 
I urge all of the agriculture communities to get out there and share your stories…it can make a huge difference!
 
 

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Drink Milk...For Your Health!

 

Here we go again! Another reality type show with a person trying to make a name for themselves as well the big bucks by claiming they are doing it for us and that they, single-handedly, will end America’s obesity problems. I am talking about Jamie Oliver AKA “The Naked Chef.”

Now don’t get me wrong…fresher better food in cafeterias is a wonderful idea. Fresh salads with low-fat dressing. Low fat deli meats on whole wheat and some light cheese. How about baked pita chips or carrots with hummus?

 I was blessed to not have to eat much in our school cafeteria. My mom made my lunch. I too, made lunch for my kids and they ate on the days they wanted to as a treat. We also did not get offered a breakfast at school. I always prided in serving my children a hot breakfast in the morning before taking them to school and heading off to my job.

I believe that nutrition and a balanced diet should be  the responsibility of parents. Granted I am not judging the food programs at school. It just doesn’t seem right that the school districts should have all of the burden of our childrens nutrition.

I do not understand how the Los Angeles Unified School District can roll over and allow this “chef” to say flavored milk should be gone and they are considering it.

 When he first came to speak with them they basically shoved the door in his face. Is giving up flavored milk an easy one for them to get him gone as well as helping out their budget? Do they think that will make him happy and he will skip off back to London with out him taking a look at the truly unhealthy foods they are serving up?

The real question we should ask  is. Is Chef Oliver a doctor in nutrition? Is he a registered dietician?

I don’t think so. Yet the Los Angeles Unified School District wants to get rid of flavored milk because HE says they should. Really?

Studies have been done extensively over the years proving the benefits of milk and that children enjoy flavored milk. It is consumed more than regular milk. They have all of the facts at their finger tips. 

Are they really going to take the opinion of  this young english chef over the doctors and dietitians that have studied this and made it their career?

I serve as a director on the California Milk Advisory Board. Our board has been urging the processors to use an alternative sweetener like the stevia plant instead of sugar. That is something that has been in the works for quite awhile and we had even got to enjoy a sample of it. It was delicious! Now it is a matter of time for it be accepted and used.

Much progress has already been made. Most have already, lowered the amount of sugar and are using low-fat milk. It just seems insane to cut it out completely when so much has already been done to address those issues.

Isn’t ironic that the schools have added a whole extra meal yet have taken away PE and other physical activities that we had when we were in school?Isn’t part of our nations obesity problem the fact that children are not active enough?

I have added some statistics and facts regarding flavored milk consumed by kids. Please, I ask you to do your homework. Let us not fall into the hype of this TV show. Lets stick to the facts not the opinions of reality stars.

  • Low-fat chocolate milk strikes the perfect balance between good nutrition and good fun!
  • Milk – whether it’s white, chocolate or even strawberry –it is packed with nine essential nutrients that are important for kids’ health.
  • When flavored milk leaves the lunchroom, 9 essential nutrients leave with it.
  • Flavored milk contains the same 9 essential nutrients found in white milk.  This nutrient package is difficult to find in other foods that are as affordable or appealing.
    • Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents)
  • Studies show that children who drink flavored milk…drink more milk overall, have better quality diets, do not have higher intakes of added sugar or fat, and are just as likely to be at a healthy weight compared to kids who do not consume flavored milk.
  • In fact, flavored milk contributes only 3 percent of the added sugars in children’s diets.
  • Recognizing that many schools want to reduce the sugar content in all their menu offerings, the dairy industry has taken action to reduce fat, calories and added sugars in flavored milk.
    • Today, the majority of milk in schools is low-fat or fat-free, and the majority of flavored milk is at or below 150 calories.

http://www.whymilk.com/flavored_milk.php

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Celebrate Agriculture

It’s not a big secret my love and respect of Agriculture. Not only because I am a third generation Dairy Farmer and my families livelihood depends on agriculture but because Agriculture is our most important resource in our Nation and World.

 
As time has progressed so many have become removed from the farms that bring them food and fiber.
 
Ag Day, March 15th, was created by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA). They are an organization of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities. Their goal is to bring awareness of agriculture’s important role in our daily lives. This program was started in 1973.
 
I urge you to check out their website http://www.agday.org/ . Share it with your family, especially those young ones that have not had the blessing of visiting a farm. Urge your children or grandchildren’s teachers to check out this special day.
 
Ag day is EVERYDAY…as everyday there are farmers working hard to provide food and clothing and so very much more that we often take for granted.
 
Just because Ag day for us farmers is everyday that doesn’t mean I am not going to celebrate!  Celebration on March 15th will begin early with the cream in my coffee. I will rejoice and be grateful for the clothes on my back. All day, as I fuel my body with the nutrition that comes from our food that we would not have with Agriculture. As I end my day with a glass of wine…I will raise it in honor of the farmer who provided it.
 
Happy Ag Day….everyone!

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