It has been quite some time since I have written here. I like to joke that I time travel. I could as easily joke that I have been abducted by aliens. What does that mean? Time passes, where were you, what did you do. I'm certain I was here, wasn't I? But time travel - living in the present moment, thinking about the past and dreaming about the future. Traveling through time in my mind. Our children have a way of focusing me back on the present, understanding as I do how quickly they change, and that staying in the present moment is so important.
A friend told me about Rod Nuelsestuen's death by drowning. I told him, we lead far too interesting of lives for the farmers that we are. What next we both wonder? Well all this is just rambling, the thing I've been thinking about is a statement by Governor Doyle about Rod presiding over 'great change' in agriculture. Talking about 'his vision'. I don't think it included a whole lot of family farms, most especially not in dairy. So let me put it another way -
Suppose I told you I had a vision. A dairy vision. It includes slave labor. Oops, that's no good, step back a notch. Immigrant labor, just shy of slave labor. Poor pay, monotonous jobs, no job security, working with animals and having the potential to make danger - danger in the food (cue tearful dramatic music, our savior the dairy industry to 'cleanse' our filthy product).
What, historically, has slave labor, oops, I mean immigrant labor, meant? Much of the United States was built on slave, I mean, immigrant, labor. The transcontinental railroad. Early agriculture. Present vegetable agriculture, particularly out west.
What this low pay just shy of slave labor represents is inequity and inefficiency in the market. But rather than work through it - figure out ways to do a miserable job, say, with equipment, technology, well, certain things are just going to be done by hand.
Let's take, oh, say dairy for example. We have two ways to go about this. The present 'grand vision', is exterminate family farms, and make huge 'agricultural factories', with slave-like jobs and in many cases illegal immigrants. Who does that benefit? All of us? In the form of cheap food? To some extent, and yes indeed, we get what we ask for, even if we don't really understand what it is we ask for.
Farmers? The bigger they are, the bigger they fall. They too are slaves - the slavemasters are slaves, too. Giant debt. Continual pressure to reduce costs - and the cultural understanding that they can only get away with so much slavery - so much poor treatment of animals. Their price is in many ways imposed on them. Their masters, the dairy industry, tells them what they will pay, and the dupes that they are, they fight amoungst themselves for the ...whatever you would call it, to race to the bottom, and hope their neighbor runs out of money before they do.
Or another vision - a willing workforce - family farmers - like ours for example - that willingly, enthusiastically, freely work slave-like hours, with only modest reward for our labors, because we love what we do. That was good enough for hundreds of years. But that's not good enough for the dairy industry. Let's not argue it - genocide of family dairy farms in Wisconsin, thousands and thousands each year, deciding that the the line between servitude and slavery has been crossed. They are out. And the cute trick is making them believe - the farmers themselves - they are the problem - that they aren't the future, but the past.
Funny thing is, every study ever done shows that small to medium sized farms are the most efficient.
Then we have the Rod Nuelsestuen cum Dairy Industry vision - hey - have a few people we can still call 'farmers', who are actually slavemasters, managing a poor immigrant labor force, and better still - get the taxpayers to subsidize that labor force, all nine ways of programs to support them, don't allow the farmer to have that savings, either, but keep sucking it up into the dairy industry. Very clever. Very evil. Very inefficient.
The use of poverty immigrant labor always represents a problem with the system they work for. "American's don't want to do that labor". No, the people in the industry are good at hiding the real costs and real pain of that labor, while enjoying the benefits of it. Or as they used to call it, slavery.
One wonders just how a 'farmer' would treat these people if he absolutely knew no one would ever see what he was doing. Nope, that's not an option, but re-defining up as down and wrong as right is a real good start. Why, they are helping these people. They aren't beating them, right? They are grateful for their jobs. Just like the africans brought across, see those arguments - look where they came from, look what a better life we give them here. Sure, no 'American' would tolerate that, but it's so much better than where they came from. Fix where they came from? Stop thinking like that, we're heroes we are, these poor unwashed savages we employee. We don't physically beat them (anymore), we just in the most friendly way pay them next to nothing, give them no job security, a hard repetitive boring job to do, and that is heroic. Just like the slaveowners of old would try and convince you of.
Or we support a reasonable price - and whole families that work night and day to deliver value - in the most efficient ways possible - with pride - leaving a legacy from generation to generation - in and of itself showing success - what slave would pass on slavery to his children if their was another option -
So this is this 'vision' this 'reality' this 'the way it is' - pass off slavery as noble to line the pockets of a few, and in so many many ways, pass off the real costs of what they do onto the rest of us to pay. Very clever. Very evil.
That's the Dairy Industry, the one Rod Nuelsestuen supported and was supported by.
As we figured out - over hundreds of years - slavery is not okay. We will push that line up and believe - and act on - the belief that a sliver away from slavery is also not okay. Then we will focus our energy, our creativity on creating good jobs that lift us all. Then we will enter the New Golden Age of Dairy in Wisconsin, one with a happy, healthy people, and content and prosperous family farmers, living in peace.
That is if the "visionaries" don't exterminate all of them first.
Still Proud Wisconsin Dairyman, Scott Trautman