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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sorting out the S*** from the Shinola....

There’s a buzz among river rats and other water watchdogs this week, as the Wisconsin State Journal’s three-part series on how the dairy industry is spreading its way, so to speak, across the Wisconsin landscape, to the dismay and anger of people who end up with 5,000 or 8,000 cows as neighbors, and feel like they had little say in the matter.

Rats who have infiltrated the alleyways of state government have known for a long time what the State Journal’s intrepid reporter Ron Seely quantified by ferreting out email records from the state Dept. of Natural Resources – that the dairy industry gets its way with regulators. This despite whining that they are overburdened with regulations. (They oughta compare notes with a city sewage treatment plant or a paper factory if they really want to know what scrutiny is.)

Rat has experienced first-hand the ways of the dairy industry’s biggest organizational cow, the Dairy Business Association (DBA). Getting its way has meant DBA spreading not just manure but outright falsehoods and near-slander of people who call them out. Several of us met with DBA representatives about a year ago to discuss legislation to limit manure contamination of drinking water. But the organization’s staff sent a “warning” to its members that thoroughly mischaracterized the intent of the policy.

When that brush fire was quelled, DBA’s executive director turned to attacking a well-respected and knowledgeable conservation professional no doubt seen by DBA as dangerous because he knows, intimately, the practices and shortcomings of the industry, and knows how those practices could be changed to minimize damage to resources.

Soon there will be legislation introduced in an attempt to limit, if not eliminate, contamination of people’s wells by manure and other wastes. Yes, it could be yet more regulation that the dairy industry loathes, and it will no doubt throw itself at it in opposition.

And none of it would be necessary if the actually acted proactively and responsibly and fixed the problem where it clearly could be fixed.

There’s not an industry in Wisconsin with poorer public relations right now than the dairy industry, despite all that wholesome family farm stuff they invoke. It wouldn’t take much to turn it around, but for now they’re going in the wrong direction.

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