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Issue Home June 13, 2007 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Let’s Give Credit

It appears now that nearly everyone is writing about the scandalous reporting of powder milk prices in the United States. Some governors and senators are jumping on the bandwagon, trying to indicate that they had something to do regarding “breaking the story.”

However, the main person who deserves credit for reporting the information is John Bunting, a dairy farmer from Delaware County, NY. In addition to being a dairy farmer, John does some freelance writing. His main news outlet is The Milkweed, a monthly dairy publication from Wisconsin. Bunting is also a member of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) and an active member of that organization’s Dairy Subcommittee.

Several times Bunting brought to the attention of the committee the fact that the world price of powdered milk was substantially higher than what the USDA was using in formulating milk prices to dairy farmers. Finally, on February 20, 2007, several members of the NFFC, including John Bunting, delivered a petition to USDA’s Inspector General Phyllis Fong, asking for an investigation into the powder milk pricing discrepancies. This investigation has been going on and, reportedly, is drawing to a close.

The National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) surveys several milk plants across the United States to determin, supposedly, the true value of dairy products. However, since these surveys are not closely audited, there appear to be many contradictions in the survey.

A main disparity that occurs on the survey forms is what information NASS authorities use on their survey. The survey forms clearly state that the survey can not use powder prices from a milk processor sales contract that is over 30 days old.

What does this mean to dairy farmers? It means a large amount of powder is sold on long-term contracts. Consequently, the NASS survey should not have been using these older contracts to determine the true value of powdered milk. They should have been using the “spot price,” which is the current price, and other prices, to fully determine the value of powdered milk.

The conclusion of this scandalous mess clearly indicates that dairy farmers’ prices during the last several months were held down to the level of 1981! While the price of nonfat powdered milk is starting to “self-correct,” this correction comes far too late for many dairy farmers who have unfortunately had to sell their animals. A significant number of other dairy farmers have seen their equity erode and wonder how much longer they can “hold on.”

Disturbingly, some news reports, including one from Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, indicate the scandalous powdered milk reporting was a “reporting error”!

How can it be classified as an “error” when the reporting forms clearly state that the prices on contracts over 30 days old cannot be used? It certainly appears to be fraudulent reporting that has cost dairy farmers, not 6.4 million dollars, but in all probability, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Recently, the US Department of Justice conducted a two-year investigation into the dairy industry, and the final report has been on the desk of US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales since last September, with no action taken. The lead investigator from the Justice Department told dairy farmers in Louisiana that what he found out was equal to the Enron scandal.

And now we have this mess! Again, all to the detriment of our dairy farmers! Eleven US Senators, including Senator Arlen Specter, Senator Bob Casey, Jr., Senator Hilary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Pat Leahy, and Senator Bernie Sanders are closely watching this deplorable situation.

Again, we must ask, “Who was sleeping at the switch?” or did they turn their heads the other way?

All of these activities clearly illustrate the need for a new milk pricing formula, based on the national average cost of producing milk.


Arden Tewksbury

Meshoppen, PA

It Is Rare

Bob Scroggins, it is rarely – rarely – that I agree with you. But I totally agree with you on your immigration letter. The reason why the House and Senate get away with all the crap it does is because all the hard working, tax paying Americans are busy working and taking care of their families instead of letting Uncle Sugar do it.


Angelo Petriello

Thompson, PA

A Powerful Weapon

A brave heart is a powerful weapon! I have a brave heart as I try to convince area citizens that they have a tremendous facility in this community that should improve the quality of life within this community. It almost seems that this community has a large contingency with a “Lil Abner Yokum” mentality – that the facility is “close by” and it’s “convenient” to work here – thus giving administration license to pay low-scale salaries and renege on at least two promises of raises in a year.

One of the medical staff admitted to me that this hospital would not continue to operate as a medical facility without the nurses and aides, and that they are actually more important than the medical doctors. This admission to me is powerful!

Montrose, under guidance of Chris Caterson and Loren Stone, is well underway with a million dollar state grant and planning to accept floating of bonds, so to create a $25 million hospital that this area might well need if this facility continues to experience its downhill spiral, evident from closing of cafeteria, pharmacy, much needed repairs, lack of materials, workers leaving.

Hard as I try to “light a spark” under the current board, I learn nothing of any concern from any of them. I have had accolades from many, many area people and encouragement to keep trying, but accolades I do not want, praise I do not deserve nor need, notoriety I do not want at 84 years of age. The only notoriety I desire would be that I am the mother of six individuals who have been successful and are honorable, contributing citizens who make a difference in this world.

I have a suggestion to the directors: in small groups (at least two), make an audit of every department from the top down (no need to spend thousands of dollars on consultants). You would see, firsthand, the failings of over-hiring, especially with lack of education and experience in the position and duplication of responsibilities over and over in some departments.

As I hear names paged on the intercom it arouses my curiosity to see a chart, like a family tree, of Barnes-Kasson employees, to see how the many twigs are related to branches, and how many branches to the trunk. Nepotism is acceptable when education and experience fits criteria of the position, and serious scrutiny by the board might prove enlightening!

I am so in hope of finding active supporters on the board and in the community in which they live, to improve the quality of life within your area. If people who have a brave heart use it as their weapon and act responsibly, the power is insurmountable. Get involved!


Audrey Kerr

New Milford, PA

Weak Link: Part II

The response to Weak Link, a letter arguing against the extensive employment of women in the military, elicited quite a response – all negative.

But why should something that would not have raised an eyebrow a few decades ago evoke such vehement disagreement today? Who's right? Could this be generational hubris? Or was the Weak Link letter little more than the easily dismissed prejudices of one man?

Let's examine this topic in a little depth.

Most admit the physical superiority of men. Their proportionately greater muscle mass, more robust bones, and greater number of red blood cells make this inevitable.

Does this, then, make women inferior? By no means. Women have their own measure. They are highly specialized to have, nurture, and care for children. She is by design a homemaker, one who seeks to attract a husband capable of supporting her biological destiny. Someone who will care for her during those months where her abilities are impaired and thereafter when caring for a baby occupies most of her time.

It is crucial for children to have the constant touching, attention, fondling, and tender play that is instinctive in mothers. They are equipped by nature to fulfill this vital need.

Men, on the other hand, are designed to support women in their role as life giver. They, too, have a biological destiny. In the male's case it is dictated by the Y chromosome, which programs a man to be more physically able and aggressive in support of his mate. By God, or by nature, men are suited to those tasks that favor these abilities.

Writing this only a few short years ago would have been dismissed as belaboring the obvious, today it seems audacious.

So why the controversy? There is a disconnect between biology and society. Biology is carved in stone while societal mores are written on shifting sand. Technology has warped these mores. Traditional female tasks have all but been eliminated. Sewing skills are as obsolete as a buggy whip. One can buy off-the-rack clothes expertly sewn and fitted. Cooking? Passé. Every supermarket has a vast assortment of ready-to-eat meals. Just pop them in a microwave and serve. Even childcare is compromised by kindergarten. And now there is pre-kindergarten, which amounts to little more than a federal daycare center.

Exacerbating the disconnect is the tax structure which makes it financially difficult for women not to join the work force. Work, itself, has been glamorized. It is no longer a means to an end; it is the end. Jobs have been exalted to careers, and careers as portals to self-fulfillment. But this "progress" has exacted a price.

Not a few women mistakenly use a male matrix to measure their ability. Doing a man's work whether as soldiers, firemen, or policemen is thought to be somehow superior. And to be as aggressive and tough as a man is to clear the bar with room to spare. This is the American Zeitgeist. I wonder if in some future retrospect our times will seem as zany as the Roaring 20's appear to us now. To a few, it seems so even today.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

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