Commentary: Reaction to Obama’s milk comment udderly amazing

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It’s amazing all of the different interpretations of President Obama’s “spilled milk” comment in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Maybe when you are the President, everything you say gets dissected down to the smallest syllable. And, people don’t just take your words at face value, but rather view them through the prism of politics.

Much of the commentary had to do with how flat his joke fell when he added the punch line, “With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.”

Yet, regardless of how well Obama delivered the joke, it’s important not to lose sight of the larger context of his remarks.

The President was simply trying to explain that his Administration had gotten rid of an unnecessary regulation, which happened to affect dairy farmers.

Yet, the comments from media figures and the public alike were all over the board in terms of how they viewed that comment. Some of the comments we received from readers — and posted with our story Wednesday — had more to do with his politics than the basis for his remark.

One reader, commenting on the story we posted on Facebook, said despite the lame joke, “we should be happy he mentioned dairy farmers at all! We (farmers) are 2 percent of the population and we are rarely even on the President’s radar.”

Then, I read an article or column in The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch that milk spills are no joking matter — they can be a real environmental issue. According to the article, the state of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has received 33 reports of large milk spills or discharges that involve dairies, dairy farms or trucking companies over the past five years. The article quoted a spokesperson from Ohio EPA saying these spills can be a problem if they reach waterways and interact with bacteria, which can deplete the water of oxygen.

The article left me wondering, aren’t there already regulations in place to guard against these spills?  

So, I called Linda Oros, spokesperson for the Ohio EPA, who confirmed, yes, there are regulations in place against the type of Biological Oxygen Demand that milk or any food discharge can create when it reaches a waterway.

If there are already regulations in place, what’s the point? President Obama was simply reminding us the other night that we did not need one additional regulation.

It’s been interesting to watch the reaction. Maybe next time President Obama will “fish” an example from the seafood industry — there has to be a number of punch lines there. Let the public digest that one “hook, line and sinker.”

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January, 27, 2012 at 07:35 AM

Tom I am with you 100%. You are correct in that there are other rules on the books that address these types of spills. For example, the stormwater pollution rule and the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System which both deal with discharges from stationary sources. Further the change (exemption) that EPA made did not affect transportation spills because those spills were never covered by the spill prevention rule in the first place because it only applies to stationary sources. So anyone that gripes about how the change affects transportation spills needs to check their facts. In addition, the rule as is was would impact not just milk but all milk products. So, a 640-pound block of cheese would have needed to have secondary container around it! FYI, EPA estimated the rule would cost the dairy industry $140 million a year. This was a train wreck that took 2 administrations to fix. It is now done and needed to be.

Mi  |  January, 27, 2012 at 09:13 AM

President Obama took credit for this but it wasn't happening until Rep. Candice Miller from Michigan introduced a bill in the U S House preventing the EPA from enforcing this regulation. Is there a cause / effect relationship there?

pa  |  January, 27, 2012 at 09:32 AM

Perhaps there would be less issues with interpretation if the media actually returned to the standard of making sure all reporting was done on the basis of facts rather than the current opinion pieces being passed off as fact. I must be old school but I can make up my own mind based on the facts without having anyone else tell me how I ought feel about things. The Dispatch article you mention is a classic example of my complaint; the reporter should have done the leg work to determine what regs were already in place before getting a bunch of people all worked up thinking more needed to be done to deal with the situation. Just plain irresponsible journalism if it can even be called that!

July, 26, 2012 at 03:45 AM

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