President's Message

Maybe the wind blew the cheese

David Madsen

The mega-hit book Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, MD, discusses actions and reactions related to career and life changes and how recognition of the need to change plays out versus failure of such recognition. There are many of us who clearly saw ourselves as one or other of the two main characters. I certainly did. A friend wrote just yesterday that he didn't mind "when they move the cheese. It's when they hide it" that causes him concern.

There has been a lot of cheese moving recently. The hog market of '98. The industry consolidation. (Isn't that why so many industry contacts were pushing the book?). The pros and cons about NPPC/NPB. Some of it is beginning to smell like limburger, and those are just the most obvious examples.

I've written about welfare issues enough that any of you who take the time to read this column know where I stand and what AASV is trying to do. Our efforts continue unabated and I thank several of our members for their time and passion in this area. It's a new kind of cheese that will allow some of us an opportunity to involve ourselves in improved pork production practices. It will also remain hidden from some of us and some of our clients and will cause concern on the part of those of us who don't go looking for it.

If you want to play "Where's The Cheese?", consider what the entire farm economy faces today and how it affects us in pork production. We recently sought to hire a part-time employee with computer experience for our office. We had twelve applicants from a rural community of 600. Half were farm wives. Half of those were seeking work so that their farmer husbands didn't have to. We made an excellent hire, but the farmer husband is still going to work nights at Wal-Mart. Thank goodness for the Midwest work ethic. But how long can attractive (to us) feed ingredient prices sustain crop producers? What happens to our cheddar when they shoot back up?

A major issue that is rapidly going from mild awareness to crisis level centers upon environmental challenges. Suits over alleged water contamination have been filed and more are planned. Almost every livestock-producing state has a waste nutrient issue. The third and potentially most intrusive area of environmental concern is air pollution. The major pollutants are measurable to some degree, manufacturing industry precedents have been established by the EPA, and nothing seems to offend more than odors to which an individual is not conditioned. The intrusive part comes from the setting of standards at the farm perimeter, measuring heretofore uncontainable byproducts of protein metabolism that happen to stink.

So, how does this effect your cheese? Two states are currently fining hog production facilities for ammonia or hydrogen sulfate emissions. The state of Idaho is preparing to sue a 7500-cow dairy for air pollution. Will a deconcentration of animal production occur? There are certainly those who hope so. Could clients close their doors? What can be done? The AVMA has seated a new Environmental Issues Committee on which AASV is represented by Dr Joe Connor. From here we expect to get some sense of how our profession and our association can respond if the wind starts to move our cheese. If it does, how will you react?