« Agriculture

Karl's Column - Teamsters Shape Farm Bill

by Carolyn Binder

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.  I don’t know if that’s a direct quote or a paraphrase, but it sure does apply to yours truly.  For example, I know a little about the progress - - or lack thereof - - in congressional negotiations regarding a new farm bill.  In getting warmed up to present this particular column, I started surfing for latest information.  Congress moves so slowly just now that “old” information just might also be “the newest” information. Before long I found “Teamsters Union Makes Farm Bill Desires Known”. It just had never occurred to me that the International Teamsters Union would have any interest at all in the Farm Bill, other than perhaps those are union teamsters behind the wheels of those shiny big tanker trucks out on the expressways. Reading further, I found that the topmost interest in the Farm Bill discussions involved supporting the Dairy Security Act. That is, the Dairy Security Act as expressed in the SENATE version, according to Teamsters President James Hoffa. (No, not THAT James, or Jimmy Hoffa).  The Teamsters concern deals with a good deal more than just tanker truck drivers.  Hoffa points to his members working in dairy processing, in that supplies of milk to the processors could dry up, under a supply management regime such as that proposed in the House version of the Farm Bill. A compromise proposal from Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Republican from Virginia, and Democrat David Scott of Georgia would have included margin insurance, without limits on production.  That’s a combination that won’t work for the Teamsters, because of the supply management factor. Of that supply management factor, Jerry Kozak of the National Milk Producers Federation says “falling milk prices, or escalating feed costs could spiral government costs of the dairy program out of control.

Dairy is an important factor in Michigan.  Within Michigan’s incredible diversification of agricultural production, Dairy is the most valuable.  The numbers vary a little, according to your source, but Governor Rick Snyder at last report, was mentioning 90 Billion Dollars as Agriculture’s contribution to the State Treasury.  Michigan is among the Top Ten producers of several commodities among all 50 states; Michigan Dairy is the eighth most productive according to the figures from 2012.

There are about 375,000 dairy cows in Michigan - - 21 hundred dairy HERDS.  The greatest volume of milk is delivered by the Holstein breed.  Overall, the average individual cow production is eight gallons of milk every day of the milking period.  Calculated on an annual basis, Michigan dairy cows rank #5 in the nation in annual production.

The village of Elsie, Michigan, about a half-hour northeast of Lansing, is home to the world’s largest registered Holstein dairy herd.

I had forgotten why milk is often measured in pounds, rather than gallons, for example.  It’s for the sake of accuracy.  Imagine measuring a cow’s morning production at so many gallons, plus 2 or 3 quarts, plus a number of ounces.  Add that to a number of gallons, quarts and ounces in the evening, to get a total for the day of so many gallons, quarts, and ounces.

  It’s just easier and more accurate to measure by the pound.