Imagine suddenly experiencing asthma, sneezing, nausea, hives and even anaphylaxis and not knowing why. Suppose three to six hours before the onset of these alarming symptoms you enjoyed a lovely sirloin, or even a fast-food burger.
Is it possible to be allergic to red meat? It is indeed.
What if this sudden allergy was incurable?
Wouldn't that be awful? I would sure hate it.
Sadly, this has happened to many people, mostly in southern and central regions of the U.S., after they were bitten by a Lone Star tick. So far, around 1,500 cases have been diagnosed.
As with Lyme disease, which is in part vectored by the booming deer population, Lone Star ticks have been spreading because of increased numbers of deer. According to Capradio.org, the little buggers are particularly aggressive. Even the larval forms bite humans.
Used to be I wandered outdoors barefoot without much regard for wildlife. Now I hesitate to even hang out laundry without wearing high rubber barn boots. We have deer on the lawn and deer and dog ticks on the dogs, cats and anyone who isn't cautious or lucky enough to avoid them.
It's enough to make you reach for the DEET.
Meanwhile, the Mighty Mississippi ain't so mighty any more. After historic drought, which cut deeply into corn harvests, the river is running short of water upon which to transport the minimal crop. Stu Ellis writes in the FarmGate blog that parts of the river may be closed to barge traffic soon. Then fuel and fertilizer can't move north and grain can't go south. The Army Corps of Engineers is reported to be blasting the river bed to remove spurs of rock that stab boats when the water gets too low.
Ellis pointed out the sad irony of devastating flooding a year and a half ago in the same region, which is now so drastically dry.
Here in tropical Fultonville we had no idea that we were trend setters, ahead of the social whirl, and cool as all get-out besides. You see the newest fad in Great Britain is "milking." If we were to add up all the years the denizens of Northview Dairy have been milking, the number would surely exceed 100. Yet teens in England think they invented the concept and have gone viral with their videos. However, they have a noticeably different view of what constitutes milking.
When we go a-milking the activity involves actual cows, milking machines (go figure), and all manner of, well, for want of a better word, work. GB kids prefer to shoot videos of each other pouring milk over their heads.
Yep, they stand on poles along the street. They stand in the middle of busy roads. They stand in trash cans, railway stations, at school and in front of pubs. They climb trees with their cartons and it's "milk" away (harmless compared to bombs away, I guess.) They cross themselves, drink the last few chugs in the jug, then pour milk on their heads even in the shower, and they listen to utterly appalling music while doing so.
It seems kind of pointless to me, but I suppose it beats swallowing gold fish.
Then there's the Farm Bill. With the fiscal cliff, which used to be called sequestration until they changed the name to make it scarier, looming, not much attention is focused on the Farm Bill. It is a gigantic omnibus bill that regulates such programs as Food Stamps, which are now called SNAP, perhaps because Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program sounds snappier than the old name, WIC, which in its business suit is known as "the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children," as well as dealing with interactions between farmers and the feds. A lot of dairy producers are a little nervous about the portion of this conglomeration that covers them and word is the processors aren't thrilled either.
The Senate is expected to start debating it this week.
And from the Really Rotten Rumors to Which You Would Rather Not Refer Department comes word that Canada will increase dairy production quotas across the board. If true, the need for thousands of extra cows on New York farms and maybe even competition resulting in better prices here, may have vanished at the stroke of a northern pen. This may, of course, not be true, but quota was increased this time last year. This kind of thing readily explains why the U.S. market is slow to respond to downward pressure on milk supplies.
And don't think tanker trucks don't roll across the border. They do. Thanks to Canada's production quota system they can restrict American access to their markets with tariffs up to 313 percent. However, they can freely dump milk here all day long and we can't say a word. (A quote from the Dairy Site "U.S. -- One of the most common questions asked of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office based in the United States Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, is why Canada is able to restrict the entry of U.S. dairy products into Canada, and yet Canada is able to export dairy products to the United States.")
Meanwhile, farmers across the U.S. are muttering about how, no matter how many thousands of dairy farms go out of business, no matter how many dairy cows fill the beef pens at auctions, there is still a "surplus" of milk. There is in fact (or at least according to the USDA) a surplus when even their own figures show declining production. Prices jumped a bit at the farmgate the past couple of months, possibly enough to shine a little light on general dairy gloom.
Then on the heels of two months of declining supply it was announced that prices had peaked and were headed back down. Dairymen are constantly lectured about the law of supply and demand. We all know, of course, that said law is easily manipulated, but isn't it interesting that it only works when prices are going up?
Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS
is a regular columnist. She blogs