Piles Keep Getting Deeper

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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"Got milk? Uncle Sam sure does." So wrote Tom Webb in an article for Knight Ridder Newspapers. He was referring to the fact that your friendly and free-spending U.S. government -- yes, the very government that wants 87 billion more of your dollars to secure whatever the heck it is we want to secure in Iraq -- has been stockpiling powdered milk to the tune of 1.28 billion pounds.

"In caves and warehouses, the U.S. government is storing mountains of powdered milk that taxpayers were required to buy, even though nobody is sure what to do with it all," Webb wrote.

It's all part of the agriculture price support program the government has operated virtually unchanged since 1949. If milk prices fall below a certain level, the feds are required to step in and buy whatever is necessary to keep you and me from paying less at our local supermarket.

Of late that's been happening a lot, and the government is having trouble keeping up. Despite offering powdered milk to school lunch programs and food banks, to foreign aid programs, and for feeding postwar Iraq, Uncle Sam can barely keep up with the new milk pouring in -- let alone reduce the huge stockpile that's built up.

"It even shipped 200 million pounds out West, for drought-stricken ranchers to feed to cattle," Webb wrote.

Paying for all this milk adds up to a hefty bottom line, and guess who's footing the bill?

"Every pound of non-fat milk in storage costs taxpayers 80 cents, so it's a $1 billion mountain," Webb wrote. "And that doesn't count storage costs."

But you have to admit that using some of the milk to feed postwar Iraq isn't a bad idea. The only downside I can see is that a mountain of milk might provide them yet another place to hide those pesky weapons of mass destruction.

By far, the most interesting aspect of this whole story is the part about feeding powdered milk to cattle. Let's run through that scenario to see if we have it right:

First we feed powdered milk to cows. When they drink water, the powdered milk is reconstituted as regular milk. Then we milk the milk back out of them. Next we extract the water from their milk turning it back into powdered milk. Then we repeat this cycle ad infinitum.

If that doesn't sound like your government in action, I don't know what does. And while they're being really stupid, I think the Rim country should cash in on the government's price support program.

Here's a few items to get us started:

  • Juniper berries

Sure they're pretty much worthless, but nobody has to tell the government that.

  • Horse, cow, duck and goose poop

Boy howdy, do we have more than our share of these. Just so the feds make their mountains out of it somewhere else. I'm thinking maybe Globe. Or the SRP parking lot.

  • Country-western music

Hold your nose when you get near this pile, too.

  • Dead ponderosa pines

Hey, these mountains are already under construction.

  • Genuine PUSD mold

It's turning up in more and more schools and posing a real disposal problem. What better way to get rid of it than to have the government pay us for it and pile it in a moldy cave somewhere. And there is precedent -- you've heard of making a mountain out of a mold hill.

  • Defeated bond issues

Vote 'em down, move 'em out, pile 'em in caves. Now we know why the Bunheads left town -- bad roads. But that's OK, because real cowboy towns don't have paved roads anyway. Have you ever seen a paved road in a Roy Rogers movie?

Back when Ronald Reagan was president, the very same agriculture price support program that produced the powdered milk glut produced a cheese glut. It was only eliminated when people in Wisconsin were convinced that becoming a cheesehead by wearing a block of cheese like a hat to Green Bay Packer games was really quite fashionable.

Surely we can come up with a similar solution to the mountains of powdered milk. Anyone for skiing?

Nah, too obvious. How about putting it all in the crawl space beneath the Rock Building at Julia Randall Elementary School. Nobody will think to look for it down there for a half century or so.

Or better yet, we bury it for 5,000 years, dig it up and serve green milk to Rim Country Middle School students. Those kids will eat anything.

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