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Issue Home February 28, 2007 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Do They Know?

I wonder if the Iraqi people know that in our constitution we have "Freedom Of Religion."

I am curious if our government remembers that. Do the Iraqi people have that in their constitution or bill of rights? Maybe they don't have a "Bill Of Rights" yet?

I think someone better take the time to explain what the word "sectarian” means.

I feel our government should have millions of letters printed up, explaining the two words and have a mail drop, first over the country of Iraq, then over the country of America, just in case we don't know or forgot.

Church and state are different. We don't care what church you belong to, or what God you believe in, or even if you don't believe in God, and maybe it would end the war if all of us just understood the difference.

We in America don't have soldiers in our streets shooting people over religion. Do we?

Our police would surely arrest them. Not kill them. Saddam is dead; let’s move on to kill Bin Ladin, I'd bet he is hiding in America!


Peter A. Seman

Thompson, PA

Dairy Proposal Is Ready

After working with the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) in Washington, DC, for over two months, as well as with other Washington officials, we at last have the final draft of our proposed dairy bill.

More importantly, as we drafted the proposed dairy bill, we have talked to hundreds of dairy farmers, and their views are contained in the proposed bill.

For a few years, only a small number of dairy farmers were making reference to Section 608(c)18, an important part of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (AMAA). Section 608(c)18 calls for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to use dairy farmers’ cost of production in determining the price paid to dairy farmers.

However, now 608(c)18 is becoming a household term throughout the country. Senator Arlen Specter has written letters to USDA urging them to implement 608(c)18.

However, in my opinion, USDA will never implement 608(c)18, so it is up to the US Congress to write a new dairy bill to correct several inequities facing most dairy farmers.

USDA classifies any dairy farm as a “small business” if that farm does not generate more than $750,000 in milk sales annually and does not produce more than 500,000 pounds of milk per month. During 2005, USDA has identified 54,652 dairy farmers whose milk was pooled under all Federal Orders. Of these, 51,060 were classified as “small businesses.” This represents about 93% of all dairy farmers who participate in the Federal Order programs. The new dairy bill reflects the philosophy of the Federal Order programs.

The new dairy bill:

Cost of production – the Secretary shall base the minimum price for all milk in the 48 contiguous states as determined by the Economic Research Service (ERS), a division of USDA. Thus, 608(c)18 will be implemented.

Manufactured milk – all  manufactured milk will be classified as Class II milk. Using the ERS figure for 2005, this means the Class II price would be $16.86 per cwt.

Fluid milk – the value of fluid milk (Class I) will be determined by using the value of manufactured milk as the basic formula price and adding a differential of $3.87 per cwt onto the basic formula price, which results in a national Class I price of $20.73.

The $3.87 per cwt differential is part of the ERS’ national average cost of production and represents the “opportunity cost of unpaid labor.”

Adjustment of prices – the Secretary shall adjust all pricing on January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 of each calendar year. These adjustments will be fair to dairy farmers and will give milk processors an opportunity to know their cost of raw milk. The present system is not fair for either dairy farmers or milk processors. Also, this new formula will play an important role in stabilizing prices to consumers.

Blend prices – the federal and state milk market administrators will now use the utilization of Class I and Class II milk as the basis for determining the blend price paid to the producers in  a given market.

Example: in Federal Order 1, the price would be determined by using the Class II price of $16.85 x 55% = $9.27 per cwt. Class I price of $20.73 x 45% = $9.34 per cwt. Blend price, $18.61 per cwt.

Component prices – the federal and state milk market administrators, through the hearing process, will determine how the value of protein and butterfat may be adjusted to each dairy farmer.

Inventory management program – the bill does not restrict production on any farm. However, if the Secretary determines there is too much milk being produced, after considering the impact of dairy imports, then the Secretary shall implement the following inventory management program.

Phase I: all producers (except some start-ups) can be charged half the value of manufactured milk on up to 5% of a producer’s production. (It may be nothing, but it cannot exceed 5%).

Phase II: if the Secretary determines that Phase I is not sufficient, then the Secretary may implement a further charge on a producer whose milk production exceeds the previous year’s production.

New producer – a new producer may produce up to the average amount of milk in his regulated market before he may be subjected to the inventory management program.

Hardship cases – any dairy farmer who suffers hardship as a result of weather conditions, uncontrolled disease, etc., may appeal to his federal or state marketing administrator regarding his production loss.

Title of milk – the bill clearly states that the transfer of title to the milk belongs to the buying handler once the milk leaves the dairy farmer’s bulk tank.

Transportation cost – all transportation costs will be the responsibility of the purchaser of the milk.

Make allowance – the bill clearly states that dairy farmers can no longer be charged the cost of converting raw milk into manufactured dairy products.

This is a brief summary of the proposed dairy bill. The bill, as written, will return a fair price to dairy farmers and will stabilize the price to dairy farmers, milk processors, and consumers.

We will have several dairy farmers marketing this proposal very soon, but it will be up to you individual dairy farmers to make immediate calls to your U.S. Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge them to sign on to the dairy bill. Any questions about the proposed dairy bill can be directed to the NFFC office, (202) 543–5675.

Remember, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, is urging a continuation of $9.90 per cwt “support price” and having the Commodity Credit Corporation pay you “MILC” payments based on only 20% of the Class I price.

What do you, as a dairy farmer, prefer – our proposed diary bill, or Secretary Johanns’ proposition?

In closing, I would like to commend Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff for his support of dairy farmers. Secretary Wolff is making some worthwhile suggestions. However, I just think we need a  new, comprehensive, national dairy bill to clean up the dairy mess. Again, we thank Secretary Wolff.


Arden Tewksbury

Meshoppen, PA

To Area Fishers

NOTE: Following is a letter we were asked to publish to inform local fishing enthusiasts of a proposed fishing program.

“To: Douglas J. Austen, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission:

The sportsmen of Susquehanna County are very concerned about the lack of fishing facilities, especially lakes, available for fishermen and especially our young (Jr.) fishermen in Susquehanna County.

We are now looking at the possibility of an agreement with the Pennsylvania American Water Co., at Comfort’s Pond for an improved fishing program.

We need the PA Fish & Boat Commission’s approval and help on this subject, we also need your input to bring this program to Susquehanna County, for a possible agreement to succeed.

At this present time, there is not a lake available that is open to the public in Susquehanna County. We do not believe this is fair to the citizens, and especially the youth of Susquehanna County. We have to drive a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour to reach a lake that is open to the public.”

Area fishers wanting to sign a petition in favor of working toward this project’s completion are asked to stop in at any local sporting goods store.

Any correspondence on this matter should be directed to John T. Katchmore, P.O. Box 83, Hallstead, PA 18822-0083, phone (570) 879–2483.


John Katchmore

Hallstead, PA

Connect The Dots

The recent reactions regarding the slow response to the February 14 blizzard has motivated me to write this letter. High criticism has fallen upon the state for a less than acceptable response. The governor has not only accepted responsibility, but is now going to conduct an “investigation.” If one simply remembers what has been going on the last several years, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand the problem. Let’s “connect the dots.” Please bear with me as I explain my opinions on this.

The state has had no choice but to cut budgets in every department as a result of the $4 billion-plus deficit that was left by the previous administration. Please remember that when Gov. Ridge took office, there was a 1.9 billion dollar “Rainy Day Fund” established by then Treasurer and current Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. Not only was that money squandered, but once then Treas. Knoll was out, an additional four-plus billion dollar deficit was run up. To compound the problem, we have been experiencing ridiculously high and over-inflated fuel prices. This has taken a staggering toll on our state’s budgets. Just think about the amount of fuel needed to run state law enforcement agencies and PennDOT alone. Unfortunately, four years of cutting state jobs was also a necessary evil to dig us out of the hole caused by the Ridge Administration’s wild spending and the price gouging of the corporate “Oil Robber Barons.” As employees have been retiring, their positions are either frozen or cut completely, resulting in fewer workers to do the work. Obviously, with fewer people working, less will get done.

In addition, it was deemed necessary to sell many PennDOT trucks that normally would not have been auctioned off. Yet another necessary evil to offset the debt inherited by the above mentioned. Less equipment, plus fewer employees, equals less efficient services.

Remember that the PennDOT workers are our neighbors and friends. I believe that they are doing the best that they can do with the circumstances handed to them. I personally know of several that spent 16 hours in their trucks, trying to keep up with the storm. I also believe that Gov. Rendell has done the best that he could do under his given situation. He had a royal mess dumped in his lap, and he had to clean it up as fast as he could. Catherine Baker Knoll’s “rainy day fund” that was destroyed by the Ridge Administration has been re-established; the state is out of debt and on the way to recovery.

I am just sorry that people lost their lives in this storm. Last time I checked, there were 12 people that died in this blizzard. That being said, I wish to publicly thank the Ridge administration for their four billion dollar deficit and wild spending. I also wish to congratulate the CEO’s and top executives of the major oil companies. Your “record profits” may have come with a price, but you should be proud!


Barney Wilkins

Kingsley, PA

A Pertinent Parable

Once there was a band of adventurers traveling through the wilderness, on their way to a better land. One day as they went along, they started getting stung by hornets now and then. The leader of the group promised to protect them from hornets.

Eventually they came upon a hornet's nest high up in a tree. The leader of the group ordered his aides to poke the nest with a sharp stick, hoping to dislodge it and destroy it once and for all. But this only made the hornets angry, and sting them even more.

Some members of the group started to disagree with the strategy of poking the hornet's nest, and urged them to walk away from it. For this, they were denounced as traitors by the rest. They were called "pro-hornet", and accused of undermining those using the stick, of giving aid and comfort to hornets, even of wanting their own group to be stung to death. "If we walk away from the nest,” they were warned, "we will appear weak, and the hornets will surely follow us!"

So they kept on poking, and the hornets kept on swarming and stinging, and they made no further progress on their journey.


Stephen Van Eck

Rushville, PA

It Is Unfortunate

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Streets Department of Susquehanna Borough for the fine job they did in clearing the streets in the borough after the recent snowstorm. It was my observation that they were out on the streets long before most people were awake, clearing the way for commuters to get out and make their way to their jobs or other business. It isn't easy to accomplish the task set before them. Streets are blocked by parked cars, side streets are steep and narrow, people throw snow back in the road, etc.

It is unfortunate that another branch of the local government, the Police Department, can’t seem to do as good a job. I guess it is too much effort to get out of their cars and enforce the “Parking Ordinance” and the “Sidewalk cleaning” ordinances. There were still apparently abandoned cars parked along borough streets (including Main Street), more than a week after the storm. I was under the impression that ordinances state “No Parking” during the winter months and “Sidewalks must be cleared” within 48 hours. Perhaps if “Fines” were imposed, “Taxes” could be reduced.


Harry Biesecker

Susquehanna, PA

The Ethanol Genie

In the fifties the atomic genie promised cheap electricity. Today the ethanol genie aspires to cheap fuel. But as the hope in the atomic genie proved to be illusionary, the gift from the ethanol genie remains elusive and may yet prove to be also illusionary.

The problem with commercially producing ethanol is threefold. First: all ethanol is made from corn kernels. If 100% of the nation's corn crop were converted to ethanol, only 7% of the nation's fuel requirements would be satisfied. Clearly, an impossible tradeoff.

Second: ethanol production takes too much fuel to make fuel. Add up the costs for fueling farm machinery, fertilizer, and transportation to an ethanol production facility. Then tack on more transportation costs for delivery to distribution centers across the country, and the pump price for ethanol is only slightly less than the cost for gasoline. Do away with the 51 cent-per-gallon tax break and you're better off with gasoline. In other words, it takes too much fossil fuel to make this green fuel.

Moreover, the transportation costs for ethanol are irreducible. Ethanol cannot be shipped via pipelines. Water seepage and condensation in pipelines does not contaminate gasoline; the two compounds do not mix; gasoline floats on water. But ethanol mixes readily with water, ruining it as a fuel. It must be transported by trucks at a far less efficient and more costly method than pipelines.

Third: ethanol does not have the chemical energy of gasoline. Fill up your tank with E85 blend ( 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) and your vehicle will travel only two-thirds of the distance as it would with a comparable tank of gasoline. Put another way: it takes 1.5 gallons of ethanol to equal l gallon of gasoline; you pay less, but have to buy more – a zero sum gain.

There is hope for ethanol, but don't look for it in the corn kernels.

If the cellulose from farm waste products – corn stalks, cobs, straw, grasses – could be converted to sugars, the next step, the production of alcohol from these sugars would rely on tried-and-true technology. Basically, ethanol would be produced the same way alcoholic beverages are made from sugar.

Transforming cellulose-to-sugar-to-alcohol could easily make enough bio-fuel to supply one-third of the nation's energy needs and at a cost far below gasoline. And that's for starters. From this point the eventual conversion of all cellulose material – wood, paper products, waste food – would await only technological refinements.

So what's the catch? Why hasn't gasoline been sidelined by its corn-made counterpart? Look for the answer in termites.

The Cinderella change from cellulose-to-sugar-to-fuel is done by enzymes. Enzymes are proteins made by living cells. The bacteria in the gut of termites produce these enzymes; it's what allows these insects to change wood, i.e., cellulose, into food. Some funguses also have this ability. But taming these microorganisms that do just fine inside the tiny wood eaters to do their magic inside a stainless steel vat is the Gordian knot of ethanol's future. Until that knot is unraveled, the commercial production of ethanol will remain in sight, but tantalizingly out of reach.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

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