Feast & Famine in the ag industry

FEAST: It’s a legal victory that took too long in the coming, but we celebrate it nonetheless.

The Court of Justice of the European Union in June ruled that, within the EU, a number of dairy terms must only be used on products that come from an animal. While “milk” is the obvious first product, the ruling also extends to words like “butter,” “cream,” “cheese” and “yogurt.” Additionally, and importantly, attempting to modify these terms by adding a descriptor isn’t allowed either – meaning things like “veggie cheese” or “plant milk” simply cannot exist.

The question now is whether American lawmakers also will codify common sense?

As we noted in our March edition, for instance, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is pursuing similar legislation at the federal level to prevent non-dairy products — think soy or almonds — from using words like “milk,” “cheese” or “yogurt.”

Science is science: Milk can only be produced by female mammals. Until almonds biologically evolve to the point that they have milkable teats, it is essentially “food counterfeiting” to claim the benefits of dairy without any true dairy basis.

FAMINE: Ever heard the term “CAVE People?”

It stands for “Citizens Against Virtually Everything,” and a textbook example of the CAVE mentality is evident at Western Michigan University where the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have filed a grievance against the public university for using goats — yes, goats — to clear fields of poison ivy.

Apparently, goats are not impacted by the plant’s toxic oils and the school thought it’d found an all-natural, animal-friendly and environmentally conducive means of handling the issue.

However, no good deed goes unpunished: AFSCME alleges that the goats are taking work away from its union members.

The irony, of course, is that if WMU had used human labor to clear the toxic plants, AFSCME would have filed a grievance for putting its employees in harm’s way.

In this public policy debate, the only winners, so far, are the goats — who appear to be taking the high road and not commenting in public.

FEAST: Here’s another legal victory, but one based on a case that we wish didn’t have to exist in the first place.

In June, a federal court in Wisconsin granted Eli Lilly & Co. and Elanco’s motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction against international food conglomerate Arla Foods and its “Live Unprocessed” ad campaign, which makes false and misleading claims about rbST, a safe technology approved by the FDA in 1993.

As part of the campaign, launched across the U.S. in late April, Arla animated a child’s interpretation of rbST as a six-eyed monster with “razor-sharp horns” and electrified fur.

The judge noted that the FDA recently reaffirmed its scientific determination that milk from rbST-treated cows is safe, and that there is no significant difference between milk from cows treated with rbST and untreated cows. “Suggesting otherwise only serves to disseminate misinformation to the public,” the court wrote in its decision.

Eric Graves, president of Elanco North America, echoed the sentiment, “As the court points out in its ruling, ‘fear-mongering’ does not ‘benefit the public.’”

This case is particularly frustrating in light of the fact that while Arla’s campaign benefits its bank account, it does so at the expense of small dairy farmers who need every available option to them to ensure safe, productive animals. It is another example of greed exploiting fear over facts.

As one of the most researched animal products ever to be approved by the FDA, rbST and dairy products made with milk from rbST-treated cows, have been deemed safe by scientific authorities and regulators in more than 50 countries across the globe, including the World Health Organization.

Elanco is fighting the good fight. The problem is, it never should have had to fight this battle at all.

FAMINE: In one of the preeminent birthplaces of the Nanny State — San Francisco — education leaders and local legislators have decided to remove chocolate milk from school menus.

The ban will remove 35 to 40 calories from students’ daily meals; and, in theory, lead to healthier kids.

The only problem is that scientific evidence points exactly in the opposite direction. After eliminating chocolate milk from their menus for six years, the Los Angeles Unified School District last year reversed their decision after a study of 21 schools found:

• Schools serving only white milk wound up with far less milk consumed and more thrown in the trash.

• Schools serving chocolate milk saw milk consumption increase by 12.5 million cartons per year across the district.

• Echoing findings from Cornell University, banning chocolate milk resulted in less milk consumed, more waste and fewer kids buying school lunch.

• Chocolate milk provided the same nutritional value as white milk and had no adverse effects on the children’s weight.

In short, the San Franciso School District — with more than 56,000 students — is attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist by creating a “solution” that actually harms its children.

Go figure.

FEAST: Dairy Cares of Wisconsin, a non-profit organization that raises money on behalf of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, proves how powerful and positive people can be when they unite for a great cause.

The non-profit group was founded in 2011 by a handful of dairymen and women, some of whom had children facing their own medical issues. Realizing — in their own words — “that we are all one degree of separation, or less, from needing Children’s Hospital,” they rallied behind the medical center.

Now, having just concluded its seventh annual campaign, Dairy Cares includes hundreds of corporate and individual sponsors, donors and volunteers — many of whom have no direct ties to the dairy industry.

This year, in addition to an annual garden party, the group launched its first-ever run/walk event, which appropriately featured a dairy theme — “Kickin’ It With the Cows.”

Runners and walkers who completed either a 10k or 5k route were greeted by cows and goats; milk, ice cream and cheese; and, yes, some beer too (Wisconsinites are almost as proud of their brewing tradition as they are their dairy heritage.)

Organizers originally thought they’d attract about 300 runners; in the end, more than 1,400 people participated.

This year alone, Dairy Cares raised $207,000 to benefit youngsters and their families facing frightening health crises. Since its founding, the group has raised an amazing $847,000.

There’s a reason Wisconsin is called “America’s Dairyland.” Beyond the sheer economic scope the industry brings into the state — about $44 billion annually — there’s a pride its citizens feel about their farmers.

As Dairy Cares of Wisconsin proves, that bond goes both ways.