Gene Starchaska, Maniwa, was honored Saturday, Dec. 1, by members of the National Farmers Organization during its annual state meeting in Manitowoc.
Starchaska has served the NFO for more than 20 years, operating the very successful Ledgeview livestock collection point, a program National NFO President Paul Olson describes as the most profitable collection point in the system.
In helping to present the award, Olson referred to Starchaska as "Mr. Get-R-Done", a "what you see is what you get guy."
He said Starchaska does not spend a lot of time in the office, looking at computerized reports and analyzing things. He said, "He's out on the farms talking to farmers, showing them how he can help. Ledgeview is growing and successful and he deserves the credit."
Garry Crosby said of Starchaska, "He is respected by fellow staff members, buyers and members who ship their cattle through the organization."
The Young Leader award was presented to Chris Popp, a director on the Ledgeview collection point board and an alternate on other boards. In his absence the award was accepted by his father.
Dan and Darlene Coehoorn, Rogersville organic producers, were recognized for their more than 20 years of service to the organization in many capacities. In presenting the award, Olson said what they produce on their farm is very good quality and they work as a team.
Referring to Darlene's work as a regional representative he said, "When asked to do something she will go the extra mile. If it's for the good of the organization she will do anything."
He adds, "She knows what's right for the farmers she works with because she lives it every day of her life. She always pays attention to details."
Don Hamm, state president, also announced the winners of the scholarships for 2012. Justin Stange, Kewaunee, is the recipient of the $750 scholarship and Kelsey Woldt, Brillion, won the $250 scholarship.
Supply manangement important
In his annual report, Hamm, who is also administrator of NAFCOR, shared view on the national Farm Bill, noting that one of the areas of disagreement in the dairy portion of the program is whether there should be voluntary or mandatory supply management included.
He said, "NFO has said for years there should be a mandatory supply management part of any program."
He said when the new farm bill was first discussed, there was agreement across the country that mandatory supply management should be a part of it but that has now been removed.
He illustrated his concern about the importance of supply management by describing his experience visiting long-time friends in Puerto Rico.
He said 15 years ago he visited that country and saw farms that were modern and successful.
On his first visit he actually visited with the employees because the farm owners were in Madison, at the time, visiting World Dairy Expo. They purchased U.S. genetics and the barns on the Puerto Rico dairies were filled with Holstein cattle that originated in the U.S.
He said the average size farm had about 100 cows that were milked in a parlor. Cows didn't get grain or hay but grazed on sugar cane. Milk prices were good and milk produced on the farms supplied the needs of the entire country with excess milk made into cheese.
At that time, the farmers were making money and re-investing in their facilities. Farmers were also raising and direct marketing their beef to restaurants and consumers within the country. Hamm described it as very good tasting and tender.
This year Hamm and his wife, Diane, went back to visit.
He commented, "The barns were shuddered and closed. Puerto Ricans were drinking cola and diabetes was becoming a major health issue. The dairy industry that had supported these families for so many years was gone because a large dairy processor from the U.S. took milk to that country and broke their market.
Hamm continued, "Walmart came in to compete with the local products. People quit buying dairy and local meat. The farming industry that supported all these families and their communities is gone."
Hamm said he related this story because he is concerned about the direction the U.S. agriculture industry is going.
He notes, "These people had success and they let it go. That's why I think it's so important that we have mandatory supply control and make sure our farms are profitable, not just producing cheap food."
He fears that future farm programs will not be fair to young producers who will be required to sign up for farm programs in order to survive.
In the discussion among delegates at the state meeting, members expressed concern about mergers and consolidations with fewer players competing for raw milk and other commodities.
Large multinational processing companies are gaining market share by undercutting other processors.
Historically strong regional companies are struggling financially and in the last decade foreign dollars have been used to buy dairy processors and this promotes low prices and creates financial hardships for dairy producers.
Delegates report they are seeing margins eroding and they continue to be worried that the large companies are saying they need to keep prices low so savings can be passed on to consumers.
However, history has shown that prices are being lowered for a different reason - to fatten the pocket books of their shareholders.
While producers agreed on the supply management aspect of the proposed farm bill, they disagreed on whether the "food stamp-welfare" portion of the farm bill should be a part of the Farm Bill or should be separated out into another program or line item in the federal budget.
Some members felt this portion of the farm bill is holding up progress on ironing out terms of the farm bill that will help agriculture. Others felt that as farmers, producers should be willing to assist families in need.