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DAIRY EXECUTIVE DISPUTES COMMISSIONER'S VIEWS

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To the Source:
In the Op-ed section of the Source recently, Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik (Got milk? Since when? Does it matter?) made some untrue statements, and drew certain conclusions, that need to be corrected. His overall conclusion seems to be that St. Thomas Dairies has no reason to exist and should receive no IDC benefits at all. Here are a few facts that I would like to share with your readers:
Trans-Caribbean Dairy Corp. does not own Island Dairies. This is not an important issue, except that Mr. Rutnik stated in his letter that it did — one of many assumptions the commissioner makes without troubling to find out the truth first. Some of the shareholders of St. Croix Dairy Products (Island Dairies) do own shares of Trans-Caribbean Dairy Corp., which does business as St. Thomas Dairies.
St. Thomas Dairies has been in business in the Virgin Islands since 1963, when it commenced operations in Tutu as a cow milking and pasteurization plant. In the 1970s and 1980s, high feed transportation costs, and loss of pasture land to Mahogany Run made it uneconomical to milk cows on St. Thomas. Some cows remained up to 1995, when Hurricane Marilyn upset the whole status of the dairy. No cows have been milked since 1995, when the dairy was purchased by local Virgin Island businessmen who reconstructed it and commenced operations in March of 1996.
Trans-Caribbean Dairy Corp., d.b.a. St. Thomas Dairies, does enjoy partial IDC benefits. Notwithstanding these benefits, the company and its employees paid in excess of $500,000 in taxes in 2000, about half federal and half to the V.I. government. We employ 52 people, all long-term Virgin Island residents. We make contributions to various community activities and charitable organizations in cash and product donations of at least $50,000 every year. Our current capital investment exceeds $1.5 million. Yet, Rutnik says it does not make sense for us to receive any IDC benefits at all. Why, Mr. Rutnik, are you so against this company that has always tried to offer quality, value and service in our business operations and has been active in community affairs?
On the milk freshness issue, one that we would hope the commissioner has some knowledge of, Mr. Rutnik again makes some unfounded assumptions. The "freshness" issue deals with the pull date that is embossed on the container. Local law allows no longer date than 10 days from pasteurization. Both local dairies comply with this law and thus can claim real freshness. Milk imported from the U.S. mainland often has longer dates than our local milk, even though it takes five to six days for the milk to get here. Mr. Rutnik refuses to enforce this law and readily admits that he does not agree with it. Isn't it unfair to require more of our local businesses, licensed by DLCA, than is required of off-island businesses, who pay no taxes here, hire no people here, contribute nothing to the community, but take everything out? Why, Mr. Rutnik, do you so favor these foreign corporations at the expense of the businesses you license locally?
Maybe the next time we have a donation request, we should refer the soliciting organization to DLCA. Perhaps McArthur Dairy or Parmelat will want to help.
Fred Hintz, president
Trans-Caribbean Dairy Corp.

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