Archive for May 3rd, 2015

Minnesota’s Poultry Industry Solution for H5N2 Influenza

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

By Ford Peterson, May 3, 2015

The May 1, 2015 Almanac on KTCA featured an editorial describing a need for a bonding bill to build a H5N2 Avian Influenza testing lab in Willmar. Allow me to make an observation.

Growing government is a serious problem in MN. Budgets are exploding out of control due to the expansion of government services. There are pressing needs. I get it. The poultry industry emergency we are witnessing provides some urgency to organize the turkey industry and minimize the explosive growth of government in the process.

Some have proposed that the Willmar testing lab is a priority. I will leave it to the experts to debate that need. Asking government to solve this turkey industry problem will add another layer of state government to the landscape. If there is a need, characterized in the media as an “emergency,” the best and highest use of government authority is to help the turkey industry to govern itself.

Adding another department to the Governor’s payroll will be permanent unless it is formed as a quasi-government service. These independent farms are too small to build a lab. They are caught off-guard after failing to form a cooperative funded and managed by the industry patrons who own it. This is the reason there are cooperatives. Coop members pay a fee to fund a process of administration that provides benefits to membership. Coop patrons consider the annual dues as a “tax,” but also have representation in the administration. Dairy, fuel, feed, insurance, are typical ag coops. These tightly focused coops serve member needs. Members pay a fee based on production. This is a perfect opportunity to see government assist industry in properly organizing themselves.

Rather than a bonding bill to provide another government service, consider the coop alternative. The cost of setup is insignificant as long as it results in establishing an industry funded and industry governed quasi-government entity that serves the needs of the industry. Properly established, this quasi-government will naturally serve the best interest of the public in the process, and eliminate the need for another department on the Governor’s payroll. There is a call for an insurance pool for producers to pool their risks and minimize losses—another perfect application for a coop.

To add economic elegance to the approach I am suggesting, the cost of turkey on the dinner plate will naturally include the cost of maintaining this quasi-government. Exported product will be properly loaded with these administrative costs. Why should MN taxpayers pay a subsidy for food exported to other states?

Minnesota’s rapidly expanding poultry industry has never formed its own organizing body. If the Industry comes to rely on Minnesota State government to provide inspection, testing, and insurance, this is tantamount to a needless business subsidy that saddles the Governor, and MN taxpayers, with the added obligation of managing the turkey business in MN.  State Government run business quickly grows into a boondoggle that fails to serve producers, consumers, and taxpayers.

Consider an emphasis on industry owned quasi-government cooperatives to solve this turkey industry emergency.