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RELYING ON the research of Cornell food scientists and the opinion of state Agriculture Commissioner Dick McGuire, Farmers Market consistently has supported the introduction of bovine growth somatotropin into the dairy industry.

The hormone, manufactured by four large pharmaceutical firms but awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval before it can be sold, is supposed to be capable of increasing a cow's milk output up to 20 percent.

Its use has divided the dairy world. Consumer advocates have allied themselves with the the naysayers. They repeatedly question BGH safety and just as often the researchers, physicians and veterinarians empaneled by the National Institute of Health. The Food and Drug Administration responds by declaring that BGH (or Bst) cannot harm human or animal health. Nor does it affect the quality of the milk or meat from treated animals.

It is also argued that BGH will knock some dairymen out of business. Maybe it will, but the number of dairy farmers has been dropping for years. BGH isn't for everybody, the experts say. Well-managed farms stand the best chance of benefiting, researchers believe.

The Dairy Industry Coalition, representing the National Milk Producers Federation and the National Dairy Research and Promotion Board, has cited several studies that found BGH is no threat to human or animal health, as some have claimed. But the coalition has refused to endorse or reject BGH use. It straddled the issue out of concern for its members from Wisconsin, where opposition to BGH has been strong, probably reflecting the economic fears of operators of small dairy farms.

But history tells us that we cannot reject new techniques or products because some will benefit more than others. Do we accept biochemistry? Do we accept change? Farmers Market stands with those who say that unless health threats are proved, BGH should be allowed on the market.

Marc Goldman, owner of the New Jersey Farmland Dairy, which buys and sells New York milk, is an able, resourceful and successful milk vendor. He has also been a thorn in the side of the 11-state Regional Cooperative Marketing Agency. He stubbornly refused to participate in the RCMA's premium program, which involved 22,000 dairy farmers. He preferred to pay his own premiums to his dairy producers. Right or wrong, Goldman survived.

Where RCMA had argued that over-order prices were needed to save dairy farmers during a low-price period, Goldman urged better promotion to develop increased demand for milk as a better strategy. This week, he said dairy farmers should assess themselves 20 cents per hundredweight to buy the advertised influence of the likes of sultry singer Madonna.

The Associated Press says Goldman is supported by Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, R-Minn., now serving his final days in the wake of his November election defeat.

Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter threw a wet towel over the idea, saying that Americans are drinking a lot of milk now. That view seems a bit odd, since milk drinking has declined in recent years. Today, per-capita milk consumption is put at 21 gallons a year. That compares with 46 gallons of soft drinks. In 1965, the figures were different, 24 gallons of milk and 18 gallons of soft drinks.

On this basis, Goldman's idea deserves study. After all, if $400 million a year in advertising can persuade Americans to drink so much nutritionally worthless flavored charged water, who knows what "Mother" Madonna could do with milk.

Of course, for six years dairy farmers have been assessing themselves 15 cents per hundredweight to support the American Dairy Board, which this year has a $60 million ad campaign for all types of dairy products.

Barnyard gossip -- From back fence to back fence, a Merry Christmas to all. . . . From a production view, 1990 has been a dry bean year in New York and the nation. Generally, that has meant softer prices. New Yorkers packed 672,000 hundredweight, up 49 percent from 1989 and 207 percent from 1988. Nationally, the 32.6 million hundredweight of kidney and black beans rose 38 percent above the 1989 mark. . . .

Registrations for the $40 Ruminant Health-Nutrition Conference, scheduled for Jan. 7 at the Syracuse Sheraton Inn, are being accepted by the Cattaraugus County Cooperative Extension Service. . . . Interest rates on farm commodity loans made during December are 7 3/8 percent, down from 7 5/8 in November. . . . The big push to develop the Empire apple market has not diminished the loyalties of many people toward the delightfully tart McIntosh. Frances Jaworski of Cheektowaga, for one, is upset that anyone would try to pass off Empires as Macintosh apples. . . .

The New York State Agricultural Society has scheduled its 1991 annual meeting for Jan. 3 on the Cornell University campus. . . . Assemblymen Tom Reynolds, R-Springville, and Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, say they back RCMA efforts to gain minimum prices for Northeast milk. Alfred State College agriculture professor Tom Cannon is leading a group of students on a three-week trip to Chile, where they will work with hog, dairy and beef producers.

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