Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Markers in dairyland; Curdle and failure. Also, brown water.

Runoff and red ink bode badly for rural landscapes.

In Wisconsin, GOP servitude to industrial-scale dairying has helped roil Dairyland:
Wisconsin lost nearly 700 dairy farms in 2018, an unprecedented rate of almost two a day. Most were small farms unable to survive farm-gate milk prices, which, adjusted for inflation, were among the lowest in half a century.As of February 1, Wisconsin had 8,046 dairy herds, down 40% from 10 years earlier, according to data from the state Department of Agriculture.
The Journal Sentinel has produced a strong series covering many of these trends.  

All made worse by ideologically-driven and intentionally-weak state 'oversight' which has allowed routine contamination of water ways and residential wells, leading to a sick cycle of reckless pumping followed by careless toxic discharges into nearby wells and downstream.

Another day, another Kewaunee County manure 'spill.'
And remember, Kewaunee County waterways eventually lead to Lake Michigan. 
Again, bigger is not better, but can certainly be browner. 
More than one-third of wells in dairy farm-intensive Kewaunee County were found to be unsafe because they failed to meet health standards for drinking water, according to a new study.
And these problems are statewide, from the Central Sands to the SW corner of the state. 

Now, note these developments:  

* Borden, the nation's second-largest dairy operation, has filed for bankruptcy, following the lead last year of Dean Foods. All that consolidation at the top led to ruinous expansion and unsustainable debt as the bottom fell out.

The company branched into other businesses, including chemicals, and went on another acquisition binge, buying 23 companies for $442.6 million in 1987 alone. But by the early 1990s it began to run into financial problems and in 1995 it was purchased by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. for $2 billion and taken private. It sold off many of the other business, leaving mostly just the dairy business.

* Yet, Coca-Cola has just extended its share of the troubled Fairlife operation to 100%. Does that look like a useful model for small producers which have anchored many rural Wisconsin families and communities?

We used to pay more attention to these mergers and acquisitions, but now they're everyday and complicated. Can you sketch out how and why Oscar Mayer left Madison? Or which foreign company owns Budweiser now? Or the Good Humor brands. Purina? (A few answers and more material, here.)

And, looking at the big picture, does Coke's consolidation of yet another water-dependent business with a dubious water track record give you confidence that it's the right steward for this precious resource?

That's been the story, broadly speaking, of resource access and management for the last decade in Wisconsin where control for big business and special interests has been assured by their patrons in government.

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Even the smaller CAFOs are struggling, not due to environmental regulation but due to uber consolidation of larger farms and producers wanting to work with fewer dairies. Thanks for nothing Scott Walker.