Posted tagged ‘Pete Hardin’

The Dairy Crisis, cont’d

July 23, 2019

Sometimes you can’t shovel everything into a story.

I found myself in that position when I profiled investigative  farm journalist Pete Hardin for Isthmus. He’s an invaluable chronicler of the crisis in dairy farming. I just didn’t have the room to discuss his reporting on the cost overruns and construction delays in UW-Madison’s much-needed expansion of its Center for Dairy Research.

But as luck had it, I wrote what amounts to Part II of the Hardin story for the newly launched Wisconsin Examiner,  an online news bureau focused on covering state politics and government. Friends and former colleagues are running it.

I wrote a commentary on how Wisconsin politicians (as well as UW-Madison) have failed dairy farmers.

Imagine if Gov. Evers, Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had gathered at the onset of the January legislative session to say that Job One would be working out a rescue plan for Wisconsin dairy farmers before turning to the new state budget.

Not everything has to be draped in extreme partisanship. Our leaders could have rallied around family farmers. Right?

Chances are the pols would have found a common ground. Goodwill would have followed. The budget deliberations would have been less smash-face. Can’t you imagine a rousing chorus of “Kumbaya” breaking out as Evers signed the budget bill surrounded by the beaming Vos and Fitzgerald?

Okay, I am a fool.

These people have warring agendas and a preference for disingenuous arguments. That’s what they do. A few years ago, Republicans gave manufacturers a huge and costly income tax cut under the cover it would also help farmers. Democrats, meanwhile, are intensely committed to issues that appeal to Milwaukee County and Dane County activists. Yes, expanding Medicaid will help struggling Wisconsin farm families, but citing it as a cornerstone to the Democrats’ farm policy is such a clumsy sleight of hand.

Wisconsin farmers need more than lip service from the pols. They need smart policies broadly supported. Otherwise we ought to change the tagline on our license plates. “America’s Dairyland”? Not anymore.

To read more, please go here.

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This Dairy World Watchdog Has A Bite

July 9, 2019

Hell, I’ll just say it. Pete Hardin is one of the best reporters I’ve met.

You’ve probably never heard of him because he writes about the troubled world of  dairy farming. This is a vitally important economic and cultural topic. But in our cloistered worlds of digital siloes, well,  news stories about the real silos in farm country never quite trend.

In a profile for Isthmus, I make the case that Hardin’s monthly dairy report, The Milkweed, is essential reading:

Year after year, Hardin has been a hard-edged voice challenging exploitative food processors, errant farm cooperatives, bullying seed companies, and self-serving agricultural groups that he feels habitually abuse the farmers who enrich them.

“Most of the organizations that allege to support dairy farmers suffer from mission failure,” Hardin says, sounding very much like a seen-it-all judge gaveling a verdict….

His reporting is intensely fact-based, assiduously sourced to the small-print revelations hiding in annual reports, nonprofit disclosure statements, court cases, and federal and state crop information.

He is a go-to source for other reporters, myself included. His observations on the dairy industry periodically are featured in national reports in The Washington PostThe New York TimesBloomberg Newsand such international outlets as Canadian and Japanese public television. He was also the subject of a 1984 cover story in Isthmus.

Rick Barrett, whose own deeply sourced reporting on the dairy crisis is receiving featured play in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, points out Hardin’s unique position in the dairy world.

“The farmers I meet on a day-to-day basis have a huge amount of respect for him,” Barrett says. “Pete Hardin is an icon in this state. There is no question about it. Even the people who disagree with him, or who don’t like his style of reporting, respect him….”

Hardin’s voice is more important that ever. I was tempted to add “in the dairy world,” but that would sell him short. With the dizzying decline of newspapers as a general news source, The Milkweed is essential reading for anyone — citizen, professor, activist, politician — who wants to understand the under-reported dairy crisis.

To read more, please go here.


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