Kind reader, News Hits asks that you pretend for a moment to be a dairy farmer ruminating on expanding your operations. Also pretend that a dairy council suggests you mooove your herd to northeast Michigan. A spiffy brochure outlines why you should hoof it to the region: ample space, clean water, good climate.
But it reveals a fact that puts you on the horns of a dilemma, because northeast Michigan also offers bovine tuberculosis. Not only can your Holstein chew idyllic scenery, it can contract TB, a known cattle killer.
What’s troubling, reader, is that our little game of make-believe is not that far from the udder truth. If you were a farmer looking to expand operations, the Northeast Michigan Dairy Development Council would be glad to steer you to the only area in the state — and country, besides Texas — where there’s known to be widespread infection among cattle and deer. The council is made up of local economic developers, the dairy industry and folks from Michigan State University’s agriculture extension program, says Gale Arent, MSU extension director. He says that the council is promoting the area to dairy farmers because it has the resources to support large dairy farms. The group also wants to churn up interest in an area where dairy farming has declined.
But what about the TB, Gale? He says nobody should beef. It is a short-term problem and will soon be eradicated.
Now who’s spewing BS?
Don’t expect any stampedes. “If I were still a dairy farmer, it would not make a lot of sense to me to locate a dairy farm where there is known disease,” says Bob Bender, Michigan’s TB eradication coordinator and a retired dairy farmer.
“I don’t think it’s good for the farmer or taxpayer.”
Bender says that if a cow is infected with TB, the government is responsible for paying up to $4,000 to have it destroyed. Hell, Texas kills prisoners for less than that. This is one cheesy campaign that should be put to pasture.Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail [email protected]