Friday, February 08, 2008

rBST and me...

This reply from a reader:
I find your comments of Feb. 2 provocative and disappointing enough to respond to but don't know how to blog-do with this what you may. [I realize now this is not obvious. My bad. Please read the "Frequently Asked Questions" in the right sidebar]
Quoting and then responding to the blog.
"doesn't deliver much utility to the ultimate customer..."
If the premium being paid for milk produced without rbst is left intact, over the US milk production this premium amounts to the amount of money required to provide health insurance to 5 million children. [Yes, and it could be used to fund a bridge in Alaska or acquire a much needed closer for the Cubs - but it won't be. Are you saying that rBST does pay health premiums?]
We may agree that this premium is paid for no value received. To say that this does not warrant a public policy discussion is like saying that the speed limit is unconstitutional. [I believe the discussion occurred at the dairy case already]
"much of the value of rbst is captured by Monsanto..." How is this less fair than if all of the premium is captured by the processor/retailer? [Please finish the paragraph - I do not mention unfairness. My point is from what I have been told, the economic gain was not spectacular. Your results may vary.]
"other shrewd dairy operators..." equally as shrewd as the consumer who buys the do these producers benefit? [Umm, a 79-cent premium?]
"causing people to go hungry is a leap..." not everyone on this planet is as wealthy as those on TV. I would venture that 80% of the people on this planet are making hard choices today caused by the price of food and fuel. I understand what you say about pricing mechanisms but ultimately cost is determined by resources consumed. Milking more cows to feed the same number of people has an economic and environmental cost. Recognizing this is called leadership. [Compared to ethanol mandates, rBST is a drop in the bucket as a food cost driver, IMHO - and I'm pretty sure I can back that up with numbers. Obviously, the gain must be less than 0.79/(farm milk price) percent or the premium would be higher. That says to me it's what, about 4% productivity gain?]
"not the end of the world either way...." rbst is an incremental part of a quantum idea-feeding the most people with the fewest resources. [True, but still incremental, not crucial]
"the dairy industry has enjoyed the support..." More so than the corn and bean growers in Chrisman, Illinois??? [I'll assume you haven't read any of my work for the last 14 years or so. I do not support the government sending me money. Or you. Click on "farm program" or "farm bill" in the Label sidebar for way too much on my subsidy position. Or watch this]

I don't want to pick a fight with my customers. I am willing to accept that the customer is always right when I can hear their voices, and they mine. The complaint is that the processors and retailers have stepped over the line and drowned out the conversation. Where choice is available, our customers have said that they would like 1 of every 50 cows to be organic. Retailers are asking us to accept that the other 49 each want their food produced without technology. [Not wanting rBST is not the same as wanting organic - this is a false comparison. I think consumers just don't want this technology.] I am not convinced. I accept the fact that I have allowed this to happen. I want strongly to change that and I will.
I am most appalled because you have directly picked a fight with your customer. When the buyer who buys your corn and beans demands that you produce it without biotech (without asking me if I care) and then collects a premium in selling it to this livestock producer( which he does not pass on a fraction of to you) how will you react? [That didn't happen, did it? Which leads me back to the point that this is perhaps a pricing error on Monsanto's part. Also remember, grain GM passes through an animal mostly rather than straight to the consumer, so the analogy is strained at best.]
Agricultural producers will not build trust with our customers if we are quietly complicit in this rip-off any more than we will when the public wakes up on the biofuel mandate debacle. [Oddly producers not using rBST seem to be winning the trust of customers, it seems to me] I grow more corn than you do but never waste a chance to admit in public that I am aware that the mandate is a crime against humanity. [Again, click on "ethanol" for my position on mandates. I am obnoxious, but try not to be hypocritical on government farm policy]
I do this(farm) for profit and for pride in delivering fair price for intrinsic value to my customers. If I do not act, the pride will be gone. A golden parachute(graceful dismount agricultural is your term) is not worth sacrificing your integrity over. [My guess is we both will be around with approximately the same amount of integrity with or without rBST, but perhaps it is the Great Litmus Test of farmer character. In which case, I fail, and you win...what, exactly? Despite which of us has the moral high ground, I see no persuasive economic evidence, especially when comparing to dairies like Fair Oaks that this controversy is a crippling blow to the dairy industry, but I could be wrong. Tell you what, I'll flag this and re-check the situation in a year.]
[My answers]

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