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The Cochrane Treadmill

In contrast, if you go back not to the 1950s but to the late '70s, you'll remember Bill Darrow, who was (briefly) commissioner of agriculture during the late Richard Snelling's first series of governorships.

To the Putney orchardist was attributed the quote "There's nothing wrong with Vermont agriculture that wouldn't be cured by a decent profit at the farmgate".

Rumors at the time-remember that the '70s were a decade of fairly aggressive milk marketing moves by the National Farmers' Organization, some of which enjoyed brief success before bringing down on its (and members') heads the wrath of the federal government for the crime of -gasp-raising milk prices-speculated that Commissioner Darrow's early return to his Putney apple acreage were directly traceable to his violation of the unspoken but statistically provable National Cheap Food Policy, with which Gov. Richard Snelling had to agree if he expected a welcome in Washington, D.C.

If Bill Darrow were alive today (he died last year), he wouldn't, at least it's my guess, have been invited to a seat on the new ADB, his lifetime of knowledge about and political skills in agriculture having been effectively trumped by his open advocacy of profit-at-the-farmgate. It's worth noting, in proof of this point, that Willard Cochrane himself, author of a number of books on ag-economics (one, published in 2003 is entitled "The Curse of American Agricultural Abundance", can't bring himself to address farmgate profit as directly as Bill Darrow did; doesn't even mention the NFO efforts at moving commodities to more profitable venues from lesser-profit ones, and addresses the economic question in terms of some sort of government board and not in terms of producer supply/price management. It will be interesting to see, as the ADB builds its own paper trail, whether it will be more in the politically-correct Cochrane mode than in the non-politically Darrow mode. I'd guess that it will.

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