Rendell: Energy is key to future of Pennsylvania

August 23rd, 2007 Susan Crowell

ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. – Pa. Gov. Edward Rendell makes no bones about it: He wants Pennsylvania to lead the country in developing renewable fuels. And he wants to do it now.
Rendell found a supportive audience at last week’s Ag Progress Days, where more than 800 people gathered to hear the governor speak at the invitation-only Government and Industry Day luncheon.
Economic key. Brushing aside worries that Pennsylvania is a corn-deficit state, Rendell said he wants the commonwealth to be the top state in production of alternative, renewable fuels.
“In the next 25 years, economic viability will be determined by who gets in the forefront of alternative energy,” Rendell said.
“It’s where the money is, it’s where we need to be.”
Corn prices move on a national, not local, market, he said in response to livestock producers’ concerns about rising feed costs because of the ethanol demand. There will be the same movement in the corn market whether Pennsylvania produces ethanol or not.
Pushing Pa. fuels. Rendell asked for support for his PennSecurity Fuels Initiative, which includes an investment of $30 million in the production and infrastructure development of alternative fuels.
The initiative also calls for 1 billion gallons of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel sold at Pa. pumps – replacing an amount equivalent to what the state is expected to import from the Persian Gulf 10 years from now.
By the end of the year, Rendell said, Pennsylvania is expected to have an annual production of more than 60 million gallons of biodiesel, with more than 170 million gallons in production by the end of 2009.
Likewise, when the state’s five ethanol plants currently under construction come on line, Pennsylvania will have production capacity of 340 million gallons per year.
“We’ve got to become energy self-sufficient,” Rendell said. “It’s key to our economy.”
Bond issue. But while the governor receives gold stars for his rhetoric, support is mixed for his proposed $850 million energy-independence bond issue, funded by a utility-usage surcharge of about 45 cents a month for residential customers and $300 per year for businesses, with a $10,000 cap for industries.
The proposal was part of the state’s budget debate that was shelved to move budget discussions, but Rendell has called a special legislative session on energy Sept. 17 to bring the issue back to the table.
Farm bill update. In addition to the governor, the Ag Progress Days luncheon drew the two U.S. senators from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter and Bob Casey. Both addressed with the pending farm bill in the Senate.
Specter was unapologetic for not voting for the 2002 farm bill, saying “it was very heavily tilted toward subsidies.”

This time around, Specter said, the farm bill must better fit the diversity of Pennsylvania agriculture.
Casey, a first-term Democrat, agreed with his Republican counterpart, and said the new farm bill must acknowledge “regional equities.”
The Senate ag committee member said Pennsylvania is an underserved state in terms of crop insurance, conservation program funding and commodity program funding. The next farm bill must shift priorities from Midwestern grains to varied interests so support is more equitable, Casey said, “so the people of Pennsylvania get what they deserve.”
Casey is working on adding a specialty crop title to the Senate version of the farm bill. He also outlined his other farm bill priorities for the Ag Progress Days crowd: farmland preservation; additional funding for Chesapeake Bay conservation/cleanup efforts; increased funding for food stamps; and renewable fuels.
“We’re going to work to get it right this time,” Casey said.
Also attending. The luncheon lineup also included state Attorney General Tom Corbett; state Sen. Mike Brubaker and state Rep. Mike Hanna.
Brubaker and Hanna are chairs of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees in their respective chambers.
Penn State University President Graham Spanier and Robert Steele, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, also spoke. U.S. Rep. John Peterson also attended.
Also on Aug. 15 at Ag Progress Days, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the House Education Committee held a joint town meeting to address agricultural education and careers.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

Disaster relief an ace in the ag hole

August 9th, 2007 Alan Guebert

About 10 seconds after the Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives last November, Collin Peterson, the Minnesotan who would lead the chamber’s Ag Committee come January, began to think about the 2007 farm bill.
About 10 seconds later, Peterson made it known that a key item on his farm bill wish list was a permanent disaster program to assist farmers and ranchers hit by weather calamities.
A permanent disaster program has always been a worthy, much-talked about idea. After all, rare is the season across America’s vast, fruited plains that droughts, floods, blizzards or worse don’t whip, wallop or wipe out farmers and ranchers.
Later. For decades, however, Congress and the White House responded to these natural devastations on an ad hoc – Latin for “I’ll worry about it when it happens” – basis.
This Scarlett O’Hara School of Management approach is about as smart and helpful as planning for retirement after you retire. Moreover, Congress has spent years ad hoc-ing – cobbling together – weather-related relief for farmers.
In July 24 testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on the need for a permanent disaster program, National Farmers Union President Tom Buis noted that, since 1998, Congress “has approved 23 ad hoc disaster bills totaling $47 billion.”
Twenty-three. Doesn’t the number itself scream for an on-the-shelf, rules-in-place disaster program that empowers USDA to respond ASAP to farmers, their families and communities should catastrophe strike?
Stalled. Peterson, as well as most of his committee members, thought so. But a legislative rule adopted by Congressional Democrats in early 2007 stalled farm bill action. The rule, called pay-go, means that if you could pay for new programs without raising taxes, you could go for it.
Backers of a permanent disaster program reckoned they needed about $1.25 billion per year for it. Finding the cash was difficult.
Their pay-go solution was to cut annual direct payments to farmers, totaling about $5 billion per year, by 20 percent and stash the cash as a permanent disaster fund.
The move, however, ran smack into cotton, rice, wheat and White House interests. All wanted to at least maintain the 2002 farm bill’s direct payment spending; the White House and the wheat boys actually wanted to increase it.
Comeback kid. They, with help from the American Farm Bureau, stopped the permanent disaster program idea dead. But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral; it staged the best comeback since the 1969 Mets.
Before sending the 2007 farm bill to the full House for a vote, Ag Committee members unanimously approved an en bloc amendment to it for programs – like permanent disaster – that all wanted but couldn’t fund.
On July 27, the House approved the farm bill, without the en bloc amendment, by a 231 to 191 vote. That maneuver allowed Peterson to put the clever amendment, and his hopes for a permanent disaster program, in his pocket.
Playing cards. In short, Peterson has the committee’s blessing to play that ace whenever someone finds the cash to pay for it. Many already suspect the U.S. Senate will be that someone.
Bipartisan efforts in its ag and finance committees suggest a disaster program will be part of the upper chamber’s farm bill proposal.
If accurate, Peterson need only play his en bloc card during Senate-House farm bill negotiations to get a disaster program into the final bill.
But should the Senate not bring permanent disaster relief to the negotiating table, Peterson still has his card to trump in with should an opportunity arise during the Senate-House farm bill conference.
However it’s done, a permanent disaster program needs to get done. In farm and ranch country, after all, neighbors help neighbors.
(Alan Guebert’s Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 75 newspapers in North America. He can be contacted at agcomm@sbcglobal.net.)

Farm Credit System wants favors

June 14th, 2007 Alan Guebert

Some things are more reliable than even death and taxes. Take the Farm Credit System for example.
Since it’s farm bill-writing time again, the giant, government-sanctioned, cooperative ag lender is again asking Congress for favors to boost itself in the farm lending marketplace.
Not new. The request, like the system, isn’t new.
Farm Credit System was born in 1916 and, by the grace of Congress, has evolved into the Federal Land Bank for long-term lending; the Federal Intermediate Credit Banks for short-term, or production, lending; and the Bank for Cooperative to fund farmer-run cooperatives.
Every time Congress gave it more rope, however, Farm Credit System snared itself in it. Expanded lending authority in 1971 led to an inglorious, $1.26 billion government bailout after ag’s ugly, mid-1980s collapse. (Farm Credit System repaid the loans, and $440 million in interest, by 2005.)
The near-crackup cost the system dearly. Farmers fled the lender for commercial banks and Farm Credit System’s share of total ag lending sagged from 30 percent in the mid-1980s to nearly 20 percent five years later.
Drawing board. Congress then rewrote Farm Credit System’s charter to both clean the system’s house and remodel it. Mergers were encouraged and the system shrank from over 800 lending institutions in 1985 to just 95 much larger ones by late 2006.
Tighter oversight by the Farm Credit Administration, Farm Credit System’s regulator, kept it on the straight and narrow, also.
The reforms worked.
By late 2005, the system had re-established itself as an ag-lending powerhouse. Its marketshare was back to 30 percent; its lending portfolio soared from $50 billion in 1985 to $113 billion; and profits quadrupled from $660 million in 1990 to $2.5 billion.
Much of the growth, however, came through two government blessings, complain commercial bankers.
First, Farm Credit System operates under a federal umbrella.
Can’t fail. Since it is chartered by the government, money raised through bond sales on Wall Street to then relend to rural America carries an implied guarantee that Congress will not allow the system to fail.
Witness the 1987 bailout. That implication allows Farm Credit System to acquire loanable funds cheaper than commercial banks.
The cheaper money is passed on to Farm Credit System borrowers through lower interest rates.
In turn, grouse the bankers, the system cherry-picks their biggest, best customers because, after all, customer loyalty in banking is either a quarter point cheaper interest rate or a toaster.
Tricks. Second, accounting tricks in the government charter effectively lower Farm Credit System members’ tax rate to, incredibly, less than 5 percent, said Mark Scanlon, a Washington-based staffer of the Independent Community Bankers of America.
Despite these enormous advantages already, Farm Credit System now wants Congress to grant it new lending authority.
One key change in the draft 2007 farm bill would allow system banks to make housing loans in communities of up to 6,000 population (currently Farm Credit System is restricted to towns of 2,500 or less) and not require new housing borrowers to buy Farm Credit System stock, a bedrock cooperative principle.
An even bigger change would allow system banks to lend to agribiz connected – even by a seemingly invisible thread – to the renewable fuel industry.
Open door. In short, complain commercial banks, the draft farm bill language would open the barn door for Farm Credit System to loan money to any and all commercial enterprises in agriculture, from the local gas station to Tyson Foods, said Scanlon.
“It would turn the Bank for Cooperatives into the Bank for Corporations,” he predicted.
The point is well-made: If Farm Credit System wants to compete head-to-head with commercial banks, then it should play by commercial bank rules.
As such, farm bill writers should either keep Farm Credit System in its traditional ag lending role or strip it of its marketplace advantages.
(Alan Guebert’s Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 75 newspapers in North America. He can be contacted at agcomm@sbcglobal.net.)

Sheep producers further their causes

June 7th, 2007 Other News

COLUMBUS – Recently, two representatives from the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, Jim Percival and Roger High, traveled to the nation’s capitol for the annual American Sheep Industry Spring Legislative Trip.
A sheep producer from Greene County, Percival is a member of American Sheep Industry’s Legislative Council while High serves as Ohio Sheep Improvement Association’s executive director.
Purpose. The purpose of the legislative trip was to inform members of Ohio’s congressional delegation about important policy issues related to Ohio’s sheep industry.
While in Washington, association representatives had the privilege of meeting with Sen. Sherrod Brown and Reps. Zach Space and Jim Jordan. He also met with aides to Reps. Charlie Wilson, John Boehner and Sen. George Voinovich.
Issues discussed during these meetings included the 2007 farm bill; reauthorization of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center; support for the Wool Loan Deficiency Payment; and the conservation title for prescriptive grazing with sheep that included the possibility of adding the ewe lamb payment under disaster assistance for agriculture.
Issues. Another important issue discussed included support for H.R. 1760, which would allow state-inspected meat to be shipped across state lines.
Ohio’s delegation also encouraged an opposition vote on legislation that would ban the slaughter of horses in the U.S.; emphasized the continued need to maintain the current animal identification system sometimes referred to as the Scrapie Identification System; and asked for continued support for the scrapie eradication program.
Possibly the most important thing the association’s representatives discussed was for increased funding for USDA-Wildlife Services in the eastern region of the United States.
With increased losses to predators such as coyotes and black vultures, this is becoming a more significant issue.
The eastern sheep and cattle industries are working with other livestock trade organizations and Farm Bureau to request an increase in the funding for USDA-Wildlife Services in states such as Ohio.
More information. For more information about Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, refer to its Web site, www.ohiosheep.org, or contact the office at 614-246-8299.

Sir Isaac Newton meets Congress

May 31st, 2007 Alan Guebert

Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” has direct application to the physics of farm bills.
For example, the 1995 farm bill, Freedom to Farm or F2F for short, was to run seven years and cost taxpayers $50 billion.
Congress, however, wrote such an unbalanced law that it ended the “market-oriented” experiment a year early after the U.S. Treasury blew through more than $100 billion of your money.
Reactions. Congress’s arrogance of accounting – “$50 billion? $100 billion? Whatever.” – was matched only by its ignorance of physics. F2F’s action of unbridling production and subsidy spending delivered a predictable reaction: a nine-year run of over-production, low prices and enormous subsidies.
The opposite and equal reactions to this cheap grain policy then rippled through the rest of agriculture, according to Timothy Wise of Tufts University’s Global and Sustainable Development Program.
In a Feb. 26 paper released by Tufts, Wise calculates F2F dropped U.S. corn prices 23 percent and U.S. soybean prices 15 percent below their respective costs of production from 1997 through 2005.
In turn – and here comes Newton – livestock “feed prices were an estimated 21 percent below production costs for poultry and 26 percent below costs for the hog industry.”
Windfalls. The cheap feed became a windfall for the big pig and poultry gang. Based upon “available market share information,” Wise and Tufts policy analysts estimate the “economic savings for the top broiler and hog producers from (the) below-cost feed from 1997-2005″ was a collective $19.75 billion.
The flood of institutionalized, cheap feed lifted the biggest boats the highest. Tyson Foods, calculates Tufts, saved an estimated $2.6 billion in feed costs in poultry operations over the nine years; GoldKist saved $1.13 billion; Pilgrim’s Pride $1 billion; and ConAgra Poultry $900 million.
The pig boys fattened themselves at F2F’s trough, too. Smithfield, estimates Tufts, saved $2.54 billion on feed from 1997 through 2005; Premium Standard saved $680 million. Two other pork giants, Seaboard and Prestage, benefited to the tune of $678 million and $426 million, respectively.
Buyouts. The cheap feed caused a chain reaction: huge profits funded the continued integration of the meat industry. In late 2003, Pilgrim’s Pride bought competitor ConAgra Poultry for $590 million and leapfrogged GoldKist to become America’s biggest cluck.
Then, this past January, Pilgrim’s Pride completed its purchase of GoldKist (for $1.1 billion) to become the cock of the walk. The others giants used their F2F savings to integration ends, also.
In 2003, Tyson’s bought beef giant IBP for $3.2 billion and, May 4, Smithfield bought Premium Standard for $1 billion.
The F2F-funded concentration and integration of market power had other, on-farm consequences. For example, the number of independent U.S. pork producers fell from 138,690 in 1997 to 65,540 in 2005. In fact, in 2005, only 115 pork operations, or 0.2 percent of all operations, produced 55 percent of all hogs in America.
In 1997, that same ratio was 20 times larger: 4 percent produced 55 percent. All of the above should serve as inarguable background now that Congress is eyeball-deep into writing the 2007 farm bill.
New farm bill. Its legislative actions, as in 1995 and 2002, will fuel market reactions. Yet few farm bill writers seem to know Newton’s Third Law. As proof, House aggies already are robbing conservation programs to underwrite a massive, near-doubling of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a program whose largest beneficiary is big livestock producers.
That action carries this predicable reaction: more and larger animal confinement units, more environmental problems and fewer independent livestock producers.
Farm bills can do many things, but they shouldn’t finance big agbiz getting bigger.
(Alan Guebert’s Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 75 newspapers in North America. He can be contacted at agcomm@sbcglobal.net.)

Biofuel’s encroachment into forages to be addressed by grazing experts

May 24th, 2007 Other News

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Anyone concerned with the nation’s energy future should attend an upcoming joint national conference on pasture land and animal feed set for June 24-26 at Penn State’s University Park campus.
The conference will bring together nationally renowned researchers in pasture and forage production with the agricultural producers whose livestock graze on the grasses.
Implications. But the nation’s increasing interest in biofuels could have major implications for how sheep, cattle and other grazing animals are fed, according to Marvin Hall, the Penn State professor of forage management who is coordinating the conference.
Hall points out that the growing national quest for ways to generate ethanol has expanded from working with corn to include grasses and forages such as alfalfa and switchgrass – crops that are grown as cheap feed for livestock.
“Lots of things will be shaken up because of research emphasis in cellulosic ethanol production,” Hall said.
“All of the work going into making forage better for ethanol also improves its digestibility for ruminant animals. The chemical processes, the enzymes that researchers are looking at to break cellulose away from lignin fibers, are the same as those in the rumen of grazing animals.
Trickle down. “There’s a trickle-down effect from our work. The improved varieties make the forages more digestible, so animals eat fewer nutrients, create less manure and cause less run-off of pollutants.
“Corn, of course, can be used for humans, but forage can’t, so the potential is there to grow forage on slopes and ground where corn shouldn’t be grown.”
The conference will include sessions on: the new farm bill, biofuels, the future of hay genetics, marketing grass-fed beef, organics and nontraditional markets.
Another session will cover carbon-credit trading, which is new in Pennsylvania.
Carbon credits. “Carbon credits are commodities now being traded on the Climate Energy Exchange in Chicago,” Hall said.
“Pennsylvania farmers in forage production can increase their farm’s profit by trading credits. A big power plant that doesn’t have money for scrubbers could actually buy carbon credits from farmers, so there’s a lot of potential for doing good in the long run.”
Tom Richards, director of Penn State’s Biomass Energy Center, will present the conference keynote address.
Forage growers and other producers unable to attend the entire conference can attend a special Producers Day June 26 for a reduced registration fee.
Fees. The $285 registration fee covers tuition, breaks, reception and banquet. Registration information is available at \ www.AFGC.org or from the American Forage and Grassland council at 630-941-3240.
Walk-in registrations will be accepted as space permits.

Common ground: Europe is changing

May 24th, 2007 Alan Guebert

If you believe the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill process is complicated – 2 million farmers, 435 representatives, 100 senators, innumerable ideas – it’s a simple souffl

Animal welfare rules are dynamic

May 17th, 2007 Susan Crowell

Testimony before a House or Senate committee is not always the most scintillating reading. I’ve always marveled how legislators can stay awake during the most boring of hearings. I guess C-SPAN doesn’t zoom in on the sleeping sages.
But a set of statements presented May 8 to a House Committee on Agriculture subcommittee held my attention. The topic? The welfare of animals in agriculture.
There is a push to include specific animal welfare regulations in the 2007 farm bill, which may be why lawmakers called the hearing.
The topic is a tough one because, in the words of Gene Gregory, president of United Egg Producers, “it lends itself to emotion, unsubstantiated allegations and extremist tactics.”
“It’s also sometimes hard to know where concern for animal welfare ends and opposition to the very existence of animal agriculture begins,” he added.
I would argue that everyone – consumers and farmers alike – is concerned about animal welfare. But the gap between farm and nonfarm understanding about accepted livestock handling practices stretches wide from Manhattan to Malibu.
What’s unacceptable? I agree with renowned expert Temple Grandin: A good livestock producer will not tolerate abuse and neglect. A good livestock producer will not allow rough handling; throwing small livestock; beating an animal; or starving an animal. A good livestock producer provides shelter and properly euthanizes animals.
Grandin estimates that 75 percent of all livestock producers, truckers and slaughter plants do a good job of preventing abuse. But she also estimates 10 percent allow these abuses to occur frequently, and another 10 percent occasionally have problems with animal abuse.
That’s not good enough. Clearly, there is room for improvement and the industry would do well to shake out the bad apples.
Farmers could follow the example of United Egg Producers. The cooperative commissioned an unpaid advisory committee, made up of animal scientists, animal welfare experts, government officials and the American Humane Association, to review animal welfare standards and make recommendations for changes.
One of the most important was increasing the amount of space for each bird in caged production systems. Co-op president Gregory estimates that about 85 percent of the industry has implemented this and other recommendations.
And to use the UEP certified seal on their egg cartons, producers are subject to a third-party audit.
The science of animal welfare is still in its infancy. Producers will have to expect and accept changes as new research information emerges.
“Pulling together societal expectations and industry needs is a lesson in recognizing that guidelines for animal care benefit from being both science-based and dynamic,” testified Gail Golab of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Those are words I hope the legislators, activists and producers heard.

What they said:

Farmers rally to draw attention to food origin labeling

May 10th, 2007 Other News

ROME, Ohio – The security of knowing where our food is produced was the focus of an informational rally at the North Union Farmers Market in Shaker Square in Cleveland April 14.
The Ashtabula, Lake, and Geauga County Farmers Union hosted the event on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) of food.
Law. “We shared information with consumers on the importance of country-of-origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, fish, produce and peanuts. This law was part of the approved 2002 farm bill and has yet to be implemented,” stated Bryan Wolfe, a dairy farmer from Rome Township and president of the Ashtabula, Lake, and Geauga County Farmers Union.
State Sen. Capri Cafaro expressed strong support for the COOL legislation. She told vendors and shoppers at the farmers market that they have a right to know in what country and under what conditions their food is processed.
She is also supportive of the recent Ohio House of Representatives resolution co-authored by Rep. George Distel that encourages Congress to enact legislation providing for the funding and immediate implementation of the portions of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 dealing with country or origin labeling.
Incognito. John Kinsman, a dairy farmer from LaValle, Wis., and president of Family Farm Defenders, and John Peck of Madison, Wis., Family Farm Defenders executive director, participated in the rally dressed as Holstein cows.
Kinsman spoke on behalf of cattle, humans and pets on the need for food safety. Knowing the country of origin for food products is a major step in that process.
For more information on COOL or Farmers Union, contact Wolfe at 440-563-5473.

The week no words would come

May 10th, 2007 Susan Crowell

There are some weeks when writing a column is hard (OK, most weeks). There’s never a lack of things to write about, but making those topics interesting is the tough part.
WTO and international trade? After a while you just want to stuff it into a green box somewhere. (Or should that be an amber box?)
And who really wants to read farm bill update XXIV, anyway?
I’ve been known to go home and shove a legal pad at my husband. “Here. Write my column this week.”
It worked once. And wouldn’t you know, I got more positive comments on that column than anything else I’d written that year (did I mention I put my name on it?).
My crack research team (Oh, wait! That would be me!) has manilla folder upon manilla folder overflowing with column fodder. Some are neatly labeled, like “Rural-Urban Interface” and “25x’25″; other labels make sense only to the maker, like “Food Frenzy” or, my personal favorite, “Ethanol Brouhaha” (it’s a thick one!).
When I reached to the back of one of my file drawers today, I discovered a folder labeled “Brand New Column Ideas.” With a red exclamation mark on the label. Trouble is, I haven’t looked at that folder for at least five years.
The depths of these folders yield oddities I keep for some unknown reason: News release dated Jan. 17, 2001: Popular uses for WD-40 (keep snow from sticking to windows, snowshovels and windshields, and to remove gum from hair); Wall Street Journal clipping dated Oct. 2, 1998: A stash of aged cheddar cheese, a gold-medal winner, was stolen from a cheesemaker’s farm in North Cadbury, England.
Don’t ask me why I thought either would make a great column. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve round-filed them now.
There is a University of Illinois news release from September 2000 with this headline: “Farmers tend to work long past typical retirement age.” Now there’s a shocker. Probably why it’s never made it out of the idea file.
And there’s a random quote from ag economist Luther Tweeten I scribbled on a scrap piece of paper: “Antagonists detract from following a coherent, rational policy to simultaneously raise productivity and protect the environment.”
(My favorite Tweeten quote, however, is emblazoned in my brain, not in any folder. I will never forget him looking straight at an Ohio farmer – who might have been whining just a little – and telling him to “sell the farm and get a life.”)
Last year, I judged several classes in the National Newspaper Association’s annual writing contest, including obituaries, agricultural news (no, I didn’t judge the classes we entered) and humorous columns.
One entry in the humor class was nothing more than a treatise about what was in the writer’s middle desk drawer. Thirty inches worth of what was in the writer’s desk. Lots of paper clips, little humor.
“What was she thinking?” I groaned as I read portions aloud to co-workers. “Surely you could find something more interesting to write about! Who really cares what’s in her desk?”
Then, today, after pounding my head against my laptop and walking around the building for the 41st time, I actually reached over and opened my drawer.
Let’s see. I have a little envelope of wooden nickels, a Lean Cuisine coupon that expired in 2004 …
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell welcomes more column fodder from readers. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)