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Farmer pours milk down drain

January 04, 2007|By TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT

About 3,000 pounds of raw milk spilled from a bulk tank Thursday, rushed across the parlor floor and swirled down a drain.

Dairy farmer Greg Wiles said he had no choice but to waste the milk because he no longer can supply it to the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association.

The cooperative, which markets milk for 1,500 dairy farmers in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, suspended Wiles' membership for failing to meet state standards, a spokeswoman has said.

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Wiles, 40, wore a shirt bearing the cooperative's name as he opened the tank and dumped the milk, with members of the media whom he invited watching.

"The sad part is somebody could have drank that," Wiles said.

Wiles, who says he is financially strapped, estimated he lost $1,000 to $2,000 on the wasted milk. Wiles' herd at a farm near Williamsport includes two cloned cows. Milk from the clones has not been part of what he sells because of an informal industry ban on doing so, he said.

The cooperative said it suspended Wiles because his milk production was too low for the size of his bulk tank and could not be properly tested. As a result, it said he was unable to meet state and cooperative Grade A standards.

"We want to continue to provide a wholesome and safe product to processing plants and, ultimately, the consumer," Amber DuMont, communications manager for the cooperative, said Thursday.

DuMont said Wiles was producing less than 1,000 pounds of milk every other day - the amount necessary to properly test the milk. The cooperative has been concerned about his production levels since October, and Wiles had been warned he could face a suspension.

Wiles disputes the production numbers cited by DuMont. He said his 52 milk cows were producing about 1,500 pounds every other day. He thinks the cooperative is distancing itself from him because it doesn't want to get involved with the controversy surrounding cloned animals.

DuMont said in an interview Wednesday that the decision to terminate his membership had nothing to do with cloning.

Wiles faces other problems. The Humane Society of Washington County confirmed Wednesday that it is investigating a complaint about Wiles and the farm, but would not provide details.

Wiles' father, who owns the 200-acre farm, is trying to evict his son. Wiles owes back rent and expects to receive an eviction notice Tuesday.

He said he hopes to find a new home for his cows, but if he can't, they'll likely be sold to a slaughterhouse. He expects to run out of money to feed the animals, because he's no longer making a profit from milk, he said.

M&T Bank has set up a farming assistance fund for the Wiles family. Donations may be mailed to The Wiles Farming Assistance Account, M&T Bank, Oak Ridge Branch, 10721 Fairway Land, Hagerstown, MD, 21740. A bank official said the bank cannot place restrictions on the money, but that the Wiles family intends to use it on farming-related expenses.

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