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On January 4, 2006, USDA announced that it would hold a public hearing to consider a proposal seeking to amend the Class III and IV “make allowances” for manufacturing cheese, butter and nonfat dry milk. This hearing commenced on January 24, 2006 in Alexandria, Virginia and continued through January 27, 2006. Unfortunately dairy farmers, who will be adversely affected to the tune of $0.25 - $0.46 per hundredweight if the proposals are approved, were not considered worthy of notification as interested parties.
The Market Administrator for Order 1 did put a notice in the first monthly mailing after January 4, 2006, but producers did not receive it until the hearing was already underway.
For those unfamiliar with this issue, before Order Reform took effect on January 1, 2000, manufacturers of cheese, butter and nonfat dry milk recovered their cost by passing it along to their customers. However, on January 1, 2000, the federal milk pricing formulas started to take money out of the market price for the manufacturing of cheese, butter and nonfat dry milk before the Class III and IV prices are announced. This is called a “make allowance.” Class I and II prices are then based on the lower Class III and IV prices.
Because costs have increased for dairy product manufacturers, Agri-Mark, a milk cooperative, has filed a petition to increase the “make allowances.” This money would come out of Class III and IV prices and also impact Class I and II prices.
Thanks to Arden Tewksbury, manager of Progressive Agriculture Organization, who offered to drive and testify, I, along with Donna Hall, Muncy, PA, Brenda Cochran, Westfield, PA, and Linda Broyan, Berwick, PA, were able to attend the public hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, on January 25, 2006. Four of us testified. We made it clear that since all dairy farmers will be affected, if Agri-Mark’s proposals are approved, all diary farmers should have been notified of this hearing. We also expressed disapproval of the very short notice given. We made it clear that taking more money out of dairy farmers’ milk checks will hurt dairy farmers and the businesses who depend on them.
We certainly don’t oppose dairy processors making a fair profit, but when retail prices for dairy products are up 83%, since the 1982-84 base period, and farm prices have remained relatively flat (even the record high 2004 milk prices were only about 25% above the 1982-84 base) there is plenty of room for increased manufacturing costs to be passed on to the customer. It is immoral for increased manufacturing cost to be passed back to dairy farmers who have no way to pass this cost on.
Perhaps Order Reform does not give dairy product manufacturers enough ability to recover increased costs. If not, they need to be more creative in changing the system. The “stick it to the farmer” mentality of co-ops and processors has to stop.
USDA officials treated those of us who testified very well and I believe that we got our message out loud and clear. In all, over a four-day period, eight or nine dairy farmers testified. If a large number of dairy farmers testified at these hearings it would make a big difference.
There is still a short time to offer comments concerning increased “make allowances.” These comments need not be long or technical. Just inform USDA about what affect taking another $0.25 - $0.46 per hundredweight out of your milk check will have on your farm. For farm related businesses, tell USDA what lower dairy farm income will mean for your business. For the general public, tell what lower farm income and decreasing farm numbers mean to you. Urge USDA not to increase manufacturing “make allowances.” Even urge your elected officials to put pressure on USDA not to increase dairy manufacturing “make allowances.” I believe that we can be successful. Comments can be mailed to the following address by February 15, 2006: Hearing Clerk, United States Department of Agriculture, Room 1031 South Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250–9200.
Time is of the essence.
Who Really Owns Your Home?
In 1997 Susette Kelo, a nurse, saw a house she thought had great potential for a home. The location was exactly what she wanted, the neighborhood quaint and established, but the house was badly in need of repair. Nevertheless, Susette bought it and had it completely renovated. With time and savings she turned the house into the home of her dreams. But her dream was soon to become a nightmare.
The day before Thanksgiving 2000, Susette received a notice of condemnation from the New London Development Corporation of New London, Connecticut. She had 90 days to vacate her home.
It seems that the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, also liked the location. Big pharma wanted to build a $300 million research facility on 90 acres of land. The city using eminent domain (ED) handed the property to a private developer under the all-inclusive claim of economic development.
Using ED or its threat to seize private property for economic development was a dubious legal tactic used some 10,000 times between 1998 and 2002. So the town of New London did not hesitate to employ it for the benefit of Pfizer.
The contended site was occupied by 70 families and businesses. Most decided voluntarily to sell. But seven families together with Susette decided not only No, but Heck no! They obtained a court order which prevented evictions until all appeals were exhausted. So began a five-year climb up the legal ladder to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Susette et al. took confident refuge in the Constitution of the United States, specifically the Fifth Amendment, which concludes with ". . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Now to Susette it seemed as obvious as a wart on a prom queen's nose that "public use" did not include a multinational pharmaceutical company.
The Supreme Court now had to decide this question: Should the government be able to use its power of ED to seize property from one private party and transfer it to another private party? They reached a decision in June 2005. In a 5 to 4 vote the Court sided with the New London Township and against Susette Kelo et al. It was a myopic ruling that didn't look beyond to the nationwide legal ramifications it was bound to engender and the chaos it was sure to cause.
According to the Court, development would create 1,000 jobs, more taxes, and revitalize an economically distressed city. Implicit in the Court's ruling is that private property is no longer private, but merely held in trust until someone with sufficient money and influence decides to put it to a more profitable use.
The Arabs have a saying, Once a camel gets his nose under the tent, the rest is sure to follow. The Court had flung open the floodgates. Within hours after the Kelo decision municipal officials in Freeport, Texas, condemned two profitable, family-owned businesses in order to transfer the property to another perhaps more profitable privately-owned business – all perfectly legal, now.
In Sand Springs, Oklahoma, dozens of homes, a church, and even a school were condemned to be replaced with a shopping mall and a Home Depot.
The Court had also opened the floodgates to corruption. Election to a public office does not endow one with integrity, or having integrity being able to retain it when tempted with great personal benefit; or if having an unvitiated integrity there is no guarantee that the official not side with the narrow view of revenue enhancement at the expense of the overarching rights of a property owner's discretion of disposal.
Also left in doubt is "just compensation" mentioned in the Fifth Amendment. Who decides what is just? In Susette Kelo's case, it certainly wasn't her.
In this post-Kelo era you might wonder, how safe is your home, your business, your farm, your plot of vacant land? Suppose Wal-Mart casts a lustful eye on a large tract of land on which your home is located and you don't want to sell. What happens? Ask yourself another question: Which one generates more taxes, your home, or Wal-Mart?
Few Supreme Court rulings have aroused so much opposition. In two polls, one by MSNBC and the other by CNN, the results were respectively 98% and 99% opposed to government confiscation of private property for economic gain.
Small wonder that 26 states have or are considering legislation concerning the use of ED and property rights, Pennsylvania being one. Will the Pennsylvania legislature merely attenuate the Kelo decision, or will it fully restore the right of a property owner to keep or dispose of his land as and when he wishes?
Other questions are: To what extent do property owners own their land? What elected bodies have ED authority? Who is the final arbiter of just compensation?
These are but some of many questions that call for the expertise of Mr. Jason Legg in his weekly column "Ask The District Attorney," and our county supervisors. Perhaps they may address them in a letter to the Transcript.
New Milford, PA
Tedious Public Debate
Allow me to suggest a simple way to end the rather tedious public debate over whether District Attorney Jason Legg’s personal beliefs are proper subjects for his “Desk of the D.A.” column. The litmus test should be this: when he is talking about prosecuting it belongs in the D.A.’s column – when he is pontificating it belongs in a letter to the editor. Thus separated, no one will be misled about which is which, and the newsprint can be devoted to more important matters.
Sam W. Lewis, Esquire
They Knew All Along
Everybody knows the famous President Lincoln quote about fooling some of the people some of the time, etc. Well, our elected legislators, and yes, the President, should study history a little more and learn from the wisdom of past leaders. I found some of the resolutions our glorious legislators (federal level) have been discussing that deal directly with the price spikes and gouging of fuel. Think about these:
In his state of the union address, President Bush claimed he wanted to “protect” us. Well good friends and neighbors, H. Res. 611, from April 28, 2004 states: “ ... the Administration has met with a top Saudi Official ... indicated the Saudi Government could increase production during the period before the election so that the prices would decrease... “
Now read that again and burn it into your memory. Think about it: just what does an election have to do with the price of fuel!? Do we only need a break from unreasonable fuel prices “ before an election”? Why did the Administration only care about “ before the election”? Pres. Bush calls that “protecting” the people?
H. CON. Res. 294, dated October 2, 2003 had some interesting items. “ ... the increase in oil revenues to Saudi Arabia would go directly to the Saudi treasury...” . Later in the same resolution, it states: “ ... Saudi Arabia continues to make financial contributions to terrorist organizations...” I would like to ask President Bush and our esteemed legislators again just how they define “protect” the American people, by allowing this to continue? Is this a “ selective” war on terror, or a war on ALL terror? On NBC News (Sunday, February 5), an economist stated that he felt that the American people were funding both sides of the war, referring to oil related purchases. Sounds to me like he is onto something.
According to S.Res. 330, in February of 2004, crude oil was $28 per barrel. March 2004, $38 per barrel. It is also stated in this resolution that OPEC identifies $22 to $28 per barrel as the objective to stabilize the price of crude oil! Why are we approaching $70 per barrel now? Does OPEC need us to have an election to help meet their own objective? Think about that one for a while.
In my opinion, the only thing effecting the price of fuel is deceitful greed. In 2004, oil company CEO and “ top executive” salaries spiked up over 30%. So many suffer to make a select few so happy! The regular oil/fuel industry workers’ salaries rose a mere 3.3 %, while the rate of inflation rose by 3.5 %. Disturbing, isn’t it? Do I sense illegal price gouging here? Can our honorable Congress investigate this? Oh, wait, we may need to investigate professional baseball again. We can wait until the prices spike up at least another dollar for 9/10 of a gallon to fix the oil problem! These clowns need to break some more “record profits,” because the terrorists, CEO’s and “ top executives” didn’t pocket enough money yet.
What disgusts me, among other things, is that they apparently knew all along, and we, the everyday working class people are suffering for it. Both sides of the political isle are guilty for letting this happen. Their own resolutions show that they knew for at least two years what is really going on. Operation Clean Sweep has its merits. Study the individuals and vote for the person, not the party. Career political hacks, regardless of party, grow complacent, arrogant, and allow this idiocy to happen. Fresh attitudes and ideas may be needed to fix real problems before it is too late.
Articles Have Helped
The Community Foundation of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties (CFSWC) would like to thank you for your help disseminating the news about what we accomplish regarding our work serving the families and non-profit organizations of our region. We now manage forty-one philanthropic Funds that support a variety of charitable causes and scholarships as chosen by the people and organizations who have established those Funds. In our area we also administer the scholarship program of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. In total we distributed $153,000 in charitable and scholarship funding in 2005. Your articles have helped spread the news about those grants and scholarships. In October we expanded into Wyoming County, but that does not mean we will neglect Susquehanna County. In fact, the contrary is true. That expansion will make The Community Foundation more vital and able to continue our mandate of serving the citizens of both counties. Your assistance has helped make people aware of what we're accomplishing on behalf of our communities.
Director of Development, CFSWC
An Ideal Commissioner
I’m sure you have read my views about free healthcare for part time employees. Some of the commissioners claim that they work full time to justify free healthcare. I find that to be a weak argument, because I don’t think three commissioners need to be present at all times. If you have competent employees - and I’m sure most county employees are - except for emergencies, things can be handled by the senior person of the department. For other situations we live in the age of cell phones. A commissioner is paid close to $50,000 per year. Now add to this approximately $18,000 for healthcare and it blows the mind of most county residents who are either retired or on the low end of the wage scale. Therefore, I definitely believe that part time employees should pay for their own healthcare.
We continue to elect people who want to be commissioner for the benefits to themselves and not what they will provide to the betterment of the county and its citizens. The first question we should ask a candidate is how they feel about free healthcare. Then ask about their working experiences that would apply to the county. For each commissioner not getting free healthcare, we can save at least $72,000 over four years. Don’t forget that after eight years, under the present rules, they get lifetime healthcare. I ask you to do the simple math so you realize the huge bucket of money that is a gift from we taxpayers. Do you know of any other part time job that pays as large a bonus?
Silver Lake Township
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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