A protest everyone should care about — Dutch government: ‘Not all farmers can continue’; Dutch farmers: ‘We Stay’

Ad Baltus milks 130 cows on roughly 170 acres in North Holland, where the government announced a new nitrogen (emissions) policy in June that has farmers rising up in protest.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 22, 2022

SCHERMERHORN, Netherlands — “The honest message is not all farmers can continue their business.” These brutal words were part of the Dutch government’s announcement in June to cut in half the emissions of nitrous oxide and ammonia in a detailed farm nitrogen map of the Netherlands. They’ve given provincial authorities one year to figure out how they will meet their aggressive provincial targets by 2027 as depicted in mapped zones.

This means both livestock numbers and use of fertilizers will be slashed, with the most drastic reductions of 70 to 90% on farms that are close to nature areas, especially those deemed part of Natura 2000, the legally protected habitats across EU member nations.

Ad Baltus is just one of the 40,000 Dutch farmers protesting the plan since mid-June with tractor formations, blockades and other activities in The Hague (capitol) and in towns and rural lands beyond. 

They are concerned for their futures, for their farms, families, communities and country. 

Baltus and his tractor have been to countless protests throughout the country, accompanied by his faithful dog Knoester. Sharing aerial photos of a formation he helped organize in his own neighborhood, he explains the hashtag in Dutch means #WeStay.

“We are letting our government know we are not going anywhere.”

A tractor-formation spelling out Dutch farmers’ message to The Hague: ‘NH #WijBlijven!’ It means “We Stay. We are not going anywhere,” says Ad Baltus, a dairy farmer who co-organized the June protest near his farm in Schermerhorn before the group traveled to Stroe the next day where an estimated 30,000 farmers protested the Dutch government’s nitrogen policy. 

Baltus farms 70 hectares (170 acres) in the North Holland village of Schermerhorn with his wife and 7-year-old daughter, milking 130 dairy cows. In summers the cows graze, and he also grows corn and collects both fresh grass and dry hay from fields.

“On our farm, we have to reduce the amount of nitrogen or sell cows. That’s a possibility. Or we have to do something with technology to reduce the nitrogen. We have been given only five years from now,” Baltus explains in a Farmshine phone interview Wednesday.

His farm is among the ‘luckier’ ones, in a zone to reduce 10 to 15%. 

No future for some

“It depends where they are situated, whether farms are near to nature terrain. Some must reduce between 50 and 70%, and some have to reduce 90%,” Baltus confirms. “In a zone between 70 and 90%, there is no possibility to have an income from your farm. That has a big impact in our farming industry.”

The calculation of nitrogen emissions is made “from what the cows produce inside the stable, and what is being produced when manure is spread over fields and then (from that calculation) is what farms have to reduce,” he says. The use of chemical fertilizers is also part of the calculation.

This is in addition to what the EU is trying to impose in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork agenda that includes many other manure regulations.

Furthermore, every farm in the Netherlands must have a permit and every farm animal on that farm must be accounted for on that permit, including the horses.

The Dutch government backed up the nitrogen policy with an additional 24.3 billion euro ($25 billion USD) for the transition. 

One Dutch news source says the environmental planning agency is recommending payment of 130% of the land and asset value of farmers who stop farming, while other sources point out the base valuation will plummet where the ability to earn income on the assets is now virtually eliminated.

Expecting 30% to sell

By the government’s own estimates, 30% of farmers are expected to sell out or cease livestock and dairy operations, but others see a greater loss coming. Farmers who retire by selling to the government do make space for other farms in their zones to continue with slightly smaller reductions.

For perspective, the Netherlands encompasses a land base a bit larger than the state of Maryland, with 54% of this land reported as agricultural land. There are more than 17 million people with around 40,000 farmers, 3.8 million total cattle, including 1.5 million dairy cows, 11.4 million pigs, 850,000 sheep, 480,000 dairy goats and just about 100 million chickens.

In touting the plan, officials point to the country’s dense population of livestock and its ability to produce more food than is needed within its borders, suggesting that farm exits are not a food security concern. The Netherlands ranks second in the world in agricultural exports worth 94.5 billion euro ($96.8 billion USD) in 2019.

Dutch farmers, however, see this as short-sighted at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other global disruptions are putting pressure on global food supplies. They are vowing to continue their protests. 

Bale art in the Netherlands has a message also. Displays like this are a ‘public-friendly’ way to protest the nitrogen policy without undue impact on the public. The red handkerchief has become the sign of support.

After weeks of tractor parades obstructing traffic and supermarket food deliveries, Baltus reports ‘public-friendly’ methods are being used to keep the farmers’ concerns visible. For example, wrapped round bales are painted with sad and angry faces with the red handkerchief, the sign of solidarity for the farmer resistance.

He shares a local newscast where another dairy farmer, Sophie Ruiter, 29, from Grootschermer explains the drastic consequences for her farm — that only 60 of her 200 cows could remain.

Turned upside down

“We think it’s really crazy that we are being punished, but a company like Tata (Steel) is given all the time to meet the targets. For us, it means that we have no future,” she says, speaking to the newscaster from behind the wheel of a mobile platform while her friend Robin Groot, holding a bag of Dutch flags, hangs them upside down on lamp posts along a provincial roadway.

Groot describes this as a “public-friendly action. We want to show that all those nitrogen measures have turned the Netherlands upside down.”

“The inverted flag used to be used in shipping as a distress signal, and we now also do that as farmers, because something is really going on,” adds Ruiter.

Removing farms doesn’t solve the problem of pollution, as other industrial complexes produce nitrous and other emissions, and those industries are not being targeted the same way. At the root is concern that “green nitrogen will be replaced by grey nitrogen,” another farmer explains during a tractor formation near a business park where unfair treatment of farmers vs. other industries was highlighted.

Solutions vs. sell-outs

Farm groups say that even though an intermediary has been named for “negotiations,” there are no real negotiations occurring. They say the rapid timeline and high level of reductions signal the government’s unwillingness to look at other solutions, that they just want to cut livestock numbers and buy farms.

“They believe that farms near nature are harming it, but we don’t see it,” says Baltus, sharing comparative photos and discussion.

What kind of nature?

“In Holland there is no nature like in Alaska or Siberia. All of the nature we have is nature that is made by people. The question we ask is what kind of nature do you want? Nature as it was in Holland from 10 years ago, or 100 years ago or 1000 years ago? They don’t give a good explanation for what they want,” he relates. 

“In some areas, they want plants and animals that never lived here – not even 10,000 years ago,” he reports. “In Holland, there are nature areas where they got rid of the topsoil to create a kind of nature (or semi-natural ungrazed grassland).”

The NGOs (non-governmental organizations) want to create it with their goal that is very different from the nature that exists, he explains.

Grasslands without grazing?

“The nature near my farm is a nature where cows and grasslands have been for 500 years, and now they say ‘no cows are needed in that area?’ We don’t understand that. Cows and farmers make that terrain, and it is because of farmers and cows that the nature is in there.”

Emissions have been discussed for 10 years. In fact, when milk quotas were lifted and dairy herds grew modestly, phosphate limits were used in 2016 to force herd reductions (see chart). Dairy cow numbers have been relatively stable over the past decade, and on the downswing since 2017. At the same time Dutch agriculture is progressive in technology and farming practices. Many farmers have already made investments in their management of nitrogen.

“We reduced in the past 40 years already 70%, but every time, the government wants more. We have a goal, and they always want more. It is never enough,” Baltus observes.

Like other Dutch farmers, he is proud of the environmental record and productivity of his country’s farms, and the substantial economic benefits they generate for their communities.

A different road

“The farmers are on a different road from the government. On the farmer side, we are thinking solutions, but on the government side, they don’t want to do anything with that. We think in the long run we can reduce more than what’s ahead now, but we need technical solutions, and there are companies in Holland developing technology to separate urine from feces so the nitrogen can be managed even better,” he explains.

A few farms are piloting such innovations, “but it is 2 to 3 years from being ready for practices,” he adds. “We need more time, and the amount of the reduction is much too high, but the government is not taking the innovation as a solution. They want to reduce livestock.”

For its part, the Dutch government maintains it has been “forced” to take this action as court rulings — brought on by activist NGOs — cite the country’s pledges on emissions, and those rulings now block infrastructure and construction projects with no future reductions to offset the emissions these projects would generate. The offsets now come first.

This train has been on the track for a while now, with many countries (as well as cities, corporations and investors) on board.

Cutting nitrogen emissions in half by 2030 is on the targets of at least 30 UN member nations with policy bubbling up in other EU nations. In keeping with the 2019 intergovernmental adoption of a UN resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management (Columbo Declaration), such legally binding pledges are now part of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that also affect a nation’s ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) score. 

Meanwhile, farmers fear Holland will be the next test-country. They point to what is happening in the first test — Sri Lanka, a small nation off the coast of India that set itself up to be global nitrogen management leader with policies ending use of chemical fertilizers and other measures to meet targets and achieve its high 98.1 ESG score.

This high score mattered little when the reality hit the people in crop failures, farm economic collapse, new levels of food insecurity, which along with economic policies have thrown the country into its worst economic crisis in decades. In recent weeks, Sri Lanken citizens stormed the capitol, the current president fled, and the country is in chaos.

Holland’s plan, according to government documents, is described by officials to bring order and clarity about “whether and how farmers can continue with their business. The (nitrogen) minister sees three options for farmers: become (more) sustainable, relocate or stop.”

This reasoning fuels tensions with farmers who say they are being told to achieve what is unattainable in a short time with few options and no future for their children. In the case of retiring farmers without a next generation, the pathway is clearer, even as the larger concerns remain.

Asked if this feels like a ‘land grab’, if it’s more about land than nitrogen, Baltus was fair-minded and clear.

“Is this about getting the land? Possibly. But we need evidence for that. Thinking in theories or plots is difficult for me as a farmer. Yes, they need land for housing and building, and they want to do nature areas. When the government comes to a farmer, it is like a farmer buying a piece of land from another farmer, you negotiate, but the government is doing it now in a way to get it for a cheaper price,” he relates.

“Yes, the government wants to buy farms to reduce livestock,” he adds. “That is why farmers are angry. The government wants to spend about 25 billion euro to buy-out farmers, while the farmers are asking them to spend 5 billion euro to reduce the same amount of nitrogen with the technology that is coming.’”

Baltus is quick to point out that when farming stops, others are also affected.

“The whole rural area depends on all the farmers, and when there is 20, 30 or 50% of farmers stopping farming, this has an effect on the dairy industry, the feeding industry, all of the rural people who do work on farms, electrician, plumber, contractor… the whole system has big effects.”

Sun sets on a mid-July tractor formation as Dutch farmers continue to protest the nitrogen policy announced in mid-June, two weeks before the parliament’s 6-week summer recess began. 

Public generally supportive

In general, Baltus sees the public as supportive of the farmers, but he observes a “thin line” of weariness.

“When we protest and people have trouble with that, by waiting in traffic or there is no food distribution, it is difficult to hold the support of the population,” he explains. “We see that the protest is now softening a bit with ‘public-friendly’ actions. But I don’t think protests will stop until the government hears the farmers. If the government doesn’t hear the farmers, then the protests will go on, and not always in a friendly way.”

He sees this issue attracting voters to a relatively new political party, the BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmers and Citizens Movement), which has some representation in parliament.

Expressing little hope for negotiation at this point, farmers say their hope may be a future election landslide depending on how this problem turns out, especially in light of the government’s statements that it has not ruled out the possibility of “expropriating land (forcibly) from farmers who don’t comply.”

Dutch farmers have already complied with many environmental regulations and changes. Farmers want to continue to do more on environmental issues, Baltus affirms: “We have done that for hundreds of years.

My father 50 years ago fed cows differently than I do now, but we need time for changing more, and we need some support to change. Selling out doesn’t help us. It’s the wrong way for the money to flow. We say spend that money for innovation – for more effect with less money.”

Cows on this North Holland dairy farm graze in the summer, with fresh grass and dry hay collected from fields for feeding in the barn. Dutch farms face a new policy requiring 10 to 90% reductions in nitrogen compound emissions as the government prepares to buy farms and assets.

Worldwide problem

“I think the problem in Holland with the farmers and the government, you will see this worldwide,” he suggests. “Just see what is happening in Sri Lanka right now, and in India last year there were big farmer protests.”

He observes farmers in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Italy are protesting in solidarity, with signs “no farmers, no food”, and banners reading “Stop the Great Reset.

“It is a worldwide problem that we think food is something that is growing in the supermarket. The government, they take it for (granted), but it is a lot of work to make food, and farmers are at the end of the rope when it comes to getting a price for their product. Farming is not so profitable at the moment, but at the same time,” says Baltus, identifying with farmers around the world:

“Many consumers cannot pay more for their food. Between the farmer and the consumer, there are many steps for money to stay in. The very big problem we forget is we live on planet earth with billions of people more than 50 years ago, and every mouth has to have food. We can’t feed everyone with just biological farming or by losing farms.”

-30-

Our farmers are the thin green line between us and a ‘Holodomor’ – Let’s not forget it!

Bale art in Holland has a message. Displays like this are a ‘public-friendly’ way to protest the nitrogen (emissions) policy, and the red handkerchief has become the sign of support for farmer resistance.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 22, 2022

The pain is necessary. The transition is unavoidable. The climate pledges are urgent. Race to zero. Net Zero Economy. Sustainable Nitrogen Management. Climate Champions, and on and on. 

These are just some of the pages and phrases at the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) website where resolutions are adopted, targets are pledged, sustainable development goals (SDGs) are constructed and updated, and Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) scoring is discussed for countries, cities, corporations, lenders, investors, institutions, states, provinces, networks, alliances, even individuals.

Dairy farmers are being asked to provide more and more of their business operations data, field agronomy, feed and energy purchases, inputs, output, upstream, downstream — a virtual farm blueprint.

While it is important that farmers have a baseline to know where they are and gauge where they are going, it is also critical that such details do not provide a centralizing entity the ability to map them into zones where requirements are passed down by milk buyers, government agencies, industry programs, or lenders deciding farmers in Zone A will be held to one standard while farmers in Zone B are held to another. 

Meanwhile, even the most aggressive standard is so trivial in the big picture that it is offset virtually overnight by unrestrained pollution in countries like China where no one is minding the store.

Sound familiar? Look at The Netherlands.

Activist NGOs have struck deals with everyone from the billionaire globalists, activist politicians, industry organizations, corporations and investors to create the world they envision and have invested in for a future return.

They use marketing platforms, global PR firms, thought-leadership networks, pre-competitive alliances, pseudo-foundations and even align with government agencies to flesh out the details and drive the bus.

As producers and consumers, it feels like we are along for the ride.

For example, Changing Markets Foundation, an offshoot of World Wildlife Fund, partners with NGOs to “leverage market forces to drive rapid and self-reinforcing change towards a more sustainable economy.”

It was formed to accelerate this transition.

Just this week Changing Markets published a study taking aim at dairy – warning investors to take a more active role in improving the dairy and meat sector’s “climate impact” by asking these companies, the processors, to disclose their emissions and investments and cut methane and other pollutants.

In other words, the NGOs, through a ‘marketing’ foundation, prods investors to push your milk buyers, lenders and vendors to obtain and track for them your information.

These NGOs and foundations are driving this bus a little too fast, and it needs to slow down. They take countries (like Holland) to court to hold up infrastructure projects, using their own pledged targets against them and forcing a faster timetable to gain the offsets needed for the stalled projects.

They publish self-fulfilling studies, surveys and warnings prodding investors to reach back into the dairy and meat sector and take a more active role in getting more reporting of downstream methane emissions (your farm).

They warn dairy and meat processors that if they don’t get this information and cough it up, investor confidence will be harmed and their assets could be stranded, resulting in large economic losses.

They salivate with anticipation, waiting for land purchase packages that they, as NGOs, can poorly manage as contractors alongside the purchasing government entities.

Let this sink in. The investor class is being deemed the farmer’s new customer – not the consumers whom our farmers are proud to feed and proud to show the truly valuable practices they use in caring for the land, practices that are often not very well monetized – like cover crops, for example.

If a country like the Netherlands with a progressive agriculture industry finds itself in the position that it can’t build or do infrastructure projects without first decreasing nitrogen emissions on the backs of farmers, where do we go from here with the fuzzy math being done on all greenhouse gases in the sidebars of highly-capitalized alternative meat and dairy lookalikes that are lining up — ready to burst on the scene to grab a foothold for investor returns?

The Changing Markets report, in fact, makes the claim that 37% of global GHG comes from food production and attributes most of this to meat and dairy — certainly embellishing the issue in this disingenuous phrasing and fuzzy math.

If farmers can’t be paid for the simplest of constructive practices that produce food for people — while at the same time being restorative to the land, why should billionaires and governments be able to come in and buy their land, plant trees, re-wild to scrub brush or half-hearted grassland status and get an offset?

None of what is happening makes sense unless we step back and recall what we know about the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, Food Transformation, Net Zero Economy and the realities of so-called ESGs. This has been a process and most of us have only had glimpses of it to connect the dots.

I recall conversations over the years of my journalism career with a most respected ag economics professor, the late Lou Moore at Penn State. He worked with farmers and his peers in former Soviet countries after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He would tell the stories from Ukraine, described to him as handed down through generations of the period of terror and famine known as the Holodomor when the Soviets collectivized the farms of the Ukraine under communism – resulting in the starvation and death of 10 million or more in a transition.

Bottomline: Agenda 2030 has been under construction for some time now, and ‘climate urgency’ is being used today to target farming and food production, not just energy and fuel.

Our industry organizations keep telling us the public, consumers, are driving where this is going, that it is science based, and yet key questions at the farm level still can’t be answered.

At the regional levels, we see authentic models of conservation groups partnering with dairy farms and cooperatives to access grants for meaningful improvements that make financial and environmental sense but may not show up just so on a global NGO’s master sheet. 

There are ideas being generated to give companies of all sizes a way to be ‘climate champions’ by investing in Farm Bill conservation programs that really work. Congressman G.T. Thompson mentioned this recently at a farm meeting.

Let’s do the work that accomplishes what’s real and equitable for our farmers and hold off just yet providing too much detailed information.

We know NGOs and governments have set targets to protect 30% of the earth’s surface as non-working lands by 2030 and 50% by 2050. This boils down in the targets at the U.S. level as well.

Let’s be sure we don’t give away the farm.

The strength and diversity of our farmers is so important. You, our farmers worldwide, are the thin green line between us and a Holodomor.

-30-

School lunch money scare tactics are holding up PA whole milk bill

Cousins Grace and Bella are my youngest granddaughters, pictured here in 2020 obviously enjoying their milk — mustache and all. They both started kindergarten in 2021, where for the next 12 years, their meals at school will not allow their choice of whole milk or even 2% milk — unless state and/or federal lawmakers act. Children consume 2 meals a day, 5 days a week, 75% of the year at school where they are denied the simple choice, even a la carte. A saddening and maddening state of affairs.

As adults, we should be ashamed of ourselves

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 8, 2022

I guess it’s true, good dairy bills – for more than a decade now – continue to be introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature, only to pass in the House but then die in the Senate. We’ve seen it with the many bills over the years aimed at amending the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Law, and now we are seeing it with the Whole Milk in Pennsylvania Schools Act.

HB 2397 was introduced by Representative John Lawrence, and it passed the State House almost unanimously (196 to 2) in April. It then passed the State Senate Agriculture Committee and was re-referred to the State Senate Appropriations Committee, where it sits today digesting the “scare tactics” of its opponents – causing some heartburn for lawmakers thinking USDA could withhold all free and reduced school lunch reimbursements in Pennsylvania.

USDA is the bully waving children’s lunch money like a mighty sword demanding submissive obedience, even suggesting in May that schools lacking appropriate LGBTQ+ policies for “gender affirming” use of locker rooms, rest rooms and sports participation could be denied their free and reduced school lunch reimbursements. USDA has since recanted this notion — saying they meant only to address discrimination associated with the provision of the food. That’s more like it. But that redirection of the Department’s prior statement did not happen until more than 20 states’ Governors and Attorneys General threatened to sue the Biden Administration for using the lunch money of economically disadvantaged children to implement federalized bathroom gender policies.

On whole milk in schools, similar scare tactics are being used to prevent the Pennsylvania state bill from being voted on in the Senate chamber.

Bow thee, oh Pennsylvanians, to King Vilsack and the Dietary Police.

Even a certain farm paper published in Lancaster County has made it their business to take every point of whole milk choice supporters, the evidence, the law, and tear it apart – piece by piece. A head-scratcher, for sure.

I have been digging into the original Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act of 1946 and the subsequent amendments through the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), as well as various memos from USDA to state nutrition program directors when the ‘Smart Snacks’ rules were implemented to govern a la carte beverages in 2012. I have also read through Pennsylvania Department of Education audits of schools, which are all publicly available. I can find no tie between a state law offering a self-select choice of whole milk (paid for with state or local or parental funds) to students as grounds for withholding free and reduced school meal reimbursements from schools. In fact, quite the contrary. 

Even the individual schools that would choose to provide the choice of whole and/or 2% milk to students could not be threatened with loss of their free and reduced lunch subsidy — as long as the meal pattern for the ‘served’ lunch is met; however, more importantly, it is clear that the only audit feature tied specifically to this reimbursement is that the financial eligibility of the recipients is properly qualified.

Here’s the key: Even if a school is deemed out of compliance on meal pattern or does not have a strong enough ‘wellness policy’ on ‘competing foods’ — as would be the case if whole milk was offered as a choice, USDA does not have the authority to yank the free and reduced school meal subsidy on that basis. This authority is linked to eligibility, financial eligibility.

Research into the 2010 HHFKA shows that the loss of this reimbursement is directly tied to how the students/families are qualified as financially eligible. There are extensive details on this in the law, and the auditing schools go through, the paper trail for eligibility, is extensive. This is a separate audit section from the meal pattern performance.

In fact, in passing the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), the U.S. Congress clearly stated — separately — that schools can receive a 6-cents per eligible meal ‘performance increase’ as an incentive to meet the new HHFKA-prescribed meal patterns and in addressing competing foods and beverages in school wellness policies per USDA. This ‘bonus’ is tied to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Sciences, not the Dietary Guidelines. (A 2018 National Academy of Sciences review was highly critical of the Dietary Guidelines process.)

In setting a 6-cent performance increase per eligible meal in the 2010 HHFKA, Congress also capped the total to be spent for this meal-pattern incentive at $50 million annually nationwide. This is over and above the separate free and reduced meal reimbursement, itself, which dwarfs the performance bonus at $14 billion annually nationwide. 

These are separate portions of the 2010 HHFKA. In Section E of the law, Failure to Comply spells out precisely what is at risk if a school is not in meal pattern compliance — the 6 cents increase per eligible meal, not the reimbursement for qualified free and reduced meals.

As for the ‘Smart Snacks’ rules promulgated by USDA and implemented fully in 2012, which govern the a la carte beverages and snacks that can be “available” on school premises during school hours? It is important to note that USDA’s own memos to state directors in 2014 clarified that the Department will “provide exemptions for certain foods that are nutrient dense, even if they may not meet all of the specific nutrient requirements.”

Whole milk is a nutrient dense food.

However, in playing ‘dictator’ with our children’s health, USDA chose its exemptions and ignored the nutrient density of whole milk. What did they use as an example in a memo to schools? “Peanut butter and other nut butters are exempt from the total fat and saturated fat standards since these foods are also nutrient dense… and we want students to consume more of these foods,” a memo to state directors stated.

Perhaps Impossible Burger is another ‘exemption’ given its calories, fat and sodium far exceed USDA rules, but it was so-impossibly approved by USDA in May 2021 for actual federal meal reimbursement. Impossible Burger is not particularly nutrient dense – but real beef is, and real beef is greatly limited in school meal pattern compliance, along with the ban on whole milk.

Bottomline, the USDA under Secretary Vilsack in 2012 took aim at beverages. In 2018, while working for DMI as one of dairy checkoff’s highest paid executives serving as President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Tom Vilsack was cheered and awarded during the dairy checkoff founded and funded GENYOUth Gala that year for his “success” in “finally” addressing the beverage situation in schools. 

Those were the words of former President Bill Clinton, a vegan, who spoke at length during the Gala about the beverage problem in the obesity crisis and how his friend Tom is the person who finally “got it done.”

What did he get done? He booted out the whole milk and paved the path for all of PepsiCo’s artificially sweetened and partially artificially sweetened beverages in school cafeterias – the Gatorade Zero, Mountain Dew Kickstart, Diet Coolers, Diet Cola’s, flavored waters – with that blend of high fructose corn syrup and sucralose that keeps them under 60 calories (the USDA threshold for an a la carte beverage per the Smart Snacks rules) and of course fat free – but also nutrition free. (PepsiCo got the GENYOUth Gala award the following year)

Sadly, the U.S. Congress also let dairy farmers down in 2010 by including the reference to the Dietary Guidelines in the one and only sentence on school milk in the HHFKA. All other nutritional references for the meal pattern are linked to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Sciences. 

Here’s what the HHFKA states under Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk Section 9(a)(2)(A) is amended to say: “shall offer students a variety of fluid milk. Such milk shall be consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” 

Even that milk sentence is ‘loose,’ and open to interpretation. Is the DGA recommendation of consuming ‘less than 10% calories from saturated fat’ a per-food, per-beverage, or per-meal ordinance or a whole-day allotment? 

We are told over and over that the DGAs are recommendations. Somehow USDA didn’t get that memo and decided to use DGAs to bully milk choices of children.

Never mind how counterproductive this is for children. When removing satiating nutrient dense fat from whole nutrient dense foods, kids compensate and replace this with nutritionally empty carbohydrates. 

Such were the early warnings of school foodservice personnel I interviewed over a decade ago as they piloted the draconian rules  before they were implemented. 

Such is also among the recent findings of the Milky Way controlled study by Australian researchers involving two sets of children — one having their milkfat consumption increased and the other having their milkfat consumption decreased. 

Care to guess which group saw a reduction in Body Mass Index percentile? Or which group had higher blood sodium levels? Or what the differences were in other biomarkers related to cardiovascular and metabolic health? (An article about this study appeared in the May 20 edition of Farmshine.)

There are so many tentacles behind the scenes of how this whole school meal and school milk thing really work, that it boggles the mind – so much so that vested interests can come in and scare well-intentioned state lawmakers into thinking if they dare pass this bill and make nutrient dense flavorful whole milk available to schoolchildren as a CHOICE, that somehow the economically disadvantaged children of the Commonwealth could go hungry because USDA will take their lunch money. School foodservice directors are undoubtedly scared as well because the free/reduced reimbursements are a huge part of their budgets.

I’ve got news for the opponents of this bill, the State Senate Appropriations Committee, the Governor and the USDA: Our children are already suffering from hunger pangs in math class, and the absence of nutrient density in their school meals – on your watch right now, today. Do you care? Do the opponents of the whole milk bill spewing their scare tactics care?

The federal prohibition of whole milk in schools is the tip of a mighty iceberg that is failing our children while paving the path to an even less healthful future for America and a less economically healthful status for Pennsylvania dairy farms, the backbone of our state’s ag economy into the future.

We just celebrated our nation’s Independence Day, and yet our children cannot choose whole milk at school — even if their locally elected school boards want to offer it and even if their parents pay for it.

No one supporting this bill believes USDA will reimburse the actual whole milk, itself. Supporters just want the choice to be fully recognized as legal so that as parents, grandparents, farmers, citizens we can get about the business of next finding a way to provide this nutrient dense, satiating, delicious option to the children in our communities who consume two meals a day, five days a week, three-quarters of the year at school.

The issue spills out from the schools into other foodservice meals. It is heartwrenching for this reporter to listen to adults involved in dairy checkoff boast to farmers about how they are getting whole milk and cream into McDonald’s coffee drinks, into foodservice hot chocolate, into all of these trendy adult venues – while our children get a tiny fat-free chocolate milk in their happy meal because this school edict spills over into foodservice chains being bullied to do the same outside of school ‘for the kids’.

As adults, we should be ashamed of ourselves and reflect on our pathetic disregard for our children.

-30-

For farming to flourish, liberty is essential

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 1, 2022

As our nation commemorates Independence Day, we think of America’s agrarian roots and how an agrarian himself, Thomas Jefferson, the primary architect of the language so carefully chosen in our Declaration of Independence, wrote much on the subject of agriculture.

With all that is happening in the world, and in agriculture, now is the time to really ponder our nation’s birth. Liberty has proven for almost 250 years to be more than an ideal worth fighting—even dying—for. It is a condition of life in America that can be misunderstood and taken for granted.

The battle of Gettysburg, the turning in the tide of the Civil War marks this same spot on the calendar. This too is remembered every July 4th weekend with re-enactments on sacred ground where freedom was further fortified for all, lest we forget that our unity stood the test of valor and dignity from both sides—an internal struggle to recommit our nation to the freedom and responsibility of true liberty so that…

As President Abraham Lincoln said: “These dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

From East to West and North to South, the diverse beauty of both the land and people of our United States of America move us to do the work, the caretaking.

Diversity, too, is a key attribute of liberty.

Across the long rural stretches of prairie from the Midwest through the Great Plains—where one can go hours without seeing another vehicle—the bigness of this land and its call of freedom is, itself, liberating.

Whether it is the eastern patchwork of small farms living at the fringes of suburbia with subdivisions often sprinkled between them or the western stretches of uninterrupted farmland—we have a duty to protect America’s agriculture, the quiet essential role of family farms as the backbone of our nation’s liberty.

We can’t allow global business interests and elitists to dictate from afar, to turn our rural networks that need restoring and rebuilding into food deserts.

Thomas Jefferson once said that, “The earth is given as common stock for man to labor and live on.” He also held high the value of agriculture to the nation’s economy, which remains true centuries later in 2022.

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness,” Jefferson wrote.

These are not idle words. In today’s times of rapidly advancing technology, many of us lack a full understanding of how advancing technology can coexist with the essential simple goodness of the sustainability we need—that of families farming for generations in the U.S. being able to choose their path instead of having it chosen for them, with new generations staying in farming or leaving to do other important work even as new and beginning farmers are drawn to the land.

Liberty is essential for agriculture to be that beacon. No other profession sustains our communities like agriculture, multiplying earnings throughout local communities.

The billionaires at Davos know this. The global corporations taking over all sustenance, they also know this. Real riches begin with the soil, the land, the work, the families, the food that sustain us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “The glory of the farmer is that, in the division of labors, it is his part to create. All trade rests, at last, on his activity. He stands close to nature; obtains from the earth the bread, the meat. The food which was not, he causes to be.”

Science, itself, is being misused, along with our faith in doing good, feeding the hungry, caring for the earth and for others, giving God the glory. The challenge is to retain our independence, remember our nation’s birth and what it stands for and never take for granted our agrarian roots, so essential for our future.

-30-