(Chuck Muth) – Let’s recap the current state of Nevada’s “Dairy War.”
Anderson Dairy benefited from a special interest piece of legislation pushed forward by U.S. Senator Harry Reid. In gratitude, Anderson Dairy did a campaign commercial last month promoting Sen. Reid’s re-election, claiming he “saved” Anderson Dairy.
In response, Assemblyman Ed Goedhart – who runs the Ponderosa Dairy, the largest actual dairy operation in Nevada (and in the interest of full disclosure, a client of mine) – wrote an op/ed and produced a YouTube video explaining how Sen. Reid’s “Milk Money Compact” helped Anderson…but at the expense of other dairymen in Nevada.
To rebut Goedhart’s rebuttal, the Reidites dug up some guy named Mark French – a former auditor of the Nevada State Dairy Commission – who in an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith said that “there are many factual untruths presented by Mr. Goedhart that demand a response.” In a nutshell, here’s what Mr. French claims:
“During the time that deliberations were being made to change the Federal Milk Marketing Order that impacted Southern Nevada, a consortium of milk producers, processors, Teamsters Union and the Nevada State Dairy Commission united together to remove Nevada dairies from onerous Federal regulations that put Nevada dairies at a competitive disadvantage within our own markets. Ponderosa Dairy (the very dairy where Ed Goedhart is the manager) was in full support of the Federal Exemption and indeed was signatory to the letter recommending that Nevada be exempted!”
For those not in the dairy industry, all this “inside baseball” dairy jargon can be a bit confusing, so let me try to bring this down the level of the average milk drinker.
First, there’s a big difference between a dairy farm and milk processor. A dairy is farm where crops are grown, cows are bred and fed, calves are born, and cows are milked. A processor is where milk is put into a bottle or carton.
Anderson Dairy, despite its name, is a processor, not dairy. It owns no cows; it milks no cows. Having the word “dairy” in your name doesn’t make you one.
On the other hand, Ponderosa Dairy is a real dairy – with real cows that give real milk.
And Ponderosa Dairy is, indeed, a member of the Security Milk Producers (SMP), a milk marketing co-op made up of various members representing dairies, processors, distributors and retailers. And in 1999, it’s true that the SMP’s director signed a letter endorsing the Reid rule change without fully understanding all of the potential consequences. However…
“I was never notified, nor informed, via phone, fax or email, of this proposed rule change,” Goedhart wrote to me over the weekend, “and my opinion was never solicited. As the harmful ramifications of this rule change became apparent, the SMP director was fired. Yes, fired.”
That a representative for a group might pursue a course of action not supported by all of the group’s members isn’t unheard of. It’s kinda like Harry Reid pushing through ObamaCare in Congress even though the majority of Nevada’s citizens oppose it.
All that said, Goedhart says the bottom line still comes down to this: Milk processors were helped by Harry Reid’s special interest legislation at the expense of dairy farmers.
“As I have stated before,” Goedhart wrote, “milk processors have been on a roll in Clark County and at least one new processing plant has been opened thanks to the Milk Money Compact, cashing in on overbase surplus milk for below-cost from other states. But how have the southern Nevada dairy farmers fared?
“Moapa Dairy….abandoned/closed. Bunker Dairy…closed. Pahrump Dairy….less than half of their cows left; due to close. Beverly Hills Dairy…expansion plans shelved and permits cancelled. In fact, there is less milk produced locally in southern Nevada now than 11 years ago even though Clark County’s population has grown by over 25 percent.”
Indeed, with Anderson and other processors getting a special exemption allowing them to purchase cheaper out-of-state “overstock” milk courtesy of Harry Reid, Goedhart says the Nevada Dairy Commission estimates the percentage of Nevada milk actually processed in southern Nevada is next to zero….if not zero.
And Goedhart says the situation in northern Nevada isn’t much better.
“Nevada dairymen would love to be able to supply local milk to local markets,” Goedhart concludes, “and I believe most Nevadans would like to have a chance to buy locally produced milk. But thanks to the sweetheart deal Harry Reid greased for Anderson Dairy and other processors in Clark County, the answer to the ‘Got Milk?’ question is, yes, but it’s from out-of-state.”
Funny how Mark French didn’t provide these factual truths when accusing Mr. Goedhart of telling factual untruths, huh? Was it from lack of honesty or lack of knowledge? Was he ill-intended or ill-informed. Is Mr. French just carrying Sen. Reid’s water in attacking Goedhart, or does he just not know milk from magnesia?
I’m guessing a little of both.
(Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach. In the interest of disclosure, he is also a paid adviser to Mr. Goedhart’s re-election campaign.)