Industry-Regulator Pile-on at Trautman Farm in WI May Offer Us a Peek Into Next Phase of Raw Milk War

Scott Trautman and family. Among the array of tactics the federal-state regulatory authorities have trotted out in their war on raw milk—sting operations, harassment, questionable pathogen findings, legal initiatives—one potentially devastating tactic has remained on the sidelines: getting the dairy processors involved. The reason processors hold so much leverage is that nearly all raw dairies sell at least some of their milk to dairy co-ops and private companies that pasteurize and Trautdistribute the milk products to dairies. Now, in Wisconsin, Scott Trautman, owner of the Trautman Family Farm, has been cut off by both state authorities (by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection from selling raw milk) and his processor (from selling milk for pasteurization), leaving him to dump up to 40 gallons of milk each day.

The reason the processor cut-off is such a problem is that in the dairy industry, unlike most other industries, there is little competition among processors. This helps explain why conventional milk prices are so low, and dairy processor profits so high. If you part company with your processor, you’ll be lucky if you find one other processor in your region, and very often, like in the case of Scott Trautman, you won’t find any.

What makes this situation especially ironic is that the whole melee seems to have resulted over safety…and it continues over safety.  Trautman says  he complained in August that the processing organization handling his milk--Foremost Farms USA, which is under the umbrella of the National Farmers Organization—weren’t using effective safety. For example, he  complainted that he was left with an unclean bulk tank because of the processor’s extraction problems.

According to an article in The Country Today, Foremost and NFO officials attribute their cutoff of Trautman to his sale of raw milk. Selling raw milk is illegal in Wisconsin, but has been tolerated over the years, and hundreds of dairies in the state are understood to sell it.

This is the first case I’ve heard of where processors have used the excuse that they don’t want to be tainted by a dairy’s raw milk sales to jettison the dairy. Everywhere else, even in places where the raw milk issue has been fought very hard, like New York and Pennsylvania, processors have continued to deal with raw dairy producers.

Trautman isn’t bending under the twin assaults on his livelihood. “They’re not getting the best of me,” he told me yesterday. “I’m trying to rally our raw milk producers in this state to form a raw milk producers group.”

High on  the group's agenda: raw milk safety. “I’m looking especially closely at the Vermont law” just put into effect this year, which spells out specific safety specifications, yet offers dairies flexibility in how they achieve the specifications. “I want us (in Wisconsin) to say we consider ourselves under Vermont law.”

He encourages other Wisconsin dairy farmers to go public with their raw milk sales. “They (DATCP) say they investigate every case of selling raw milk. Let them investigate us all. They can come and lock me up. Put me away.”

He adds that in his view this isn’t a health issue. “This is less about raw milk and more about family farms and freedom to choose.”

Scott Trautman and his family has been in the dairy business for only two years. “We started with two cows, then four cows, and so forth,” he says. Now he has 25 cows on seventy acres.

He notes that while he sells other products besides raw milk, it’s the raw milk that brings customers back to his farm repeatedly to buy things like beef, pork, and eggs.

He also notes that it’s curious that DATCP and the processor both came after him at about the same time in September.

So what’s the problem with processors cutting off raw dairy producers? For starters, there are laws on the books that prohibit this kind of behavior—they have names like  “restraint of trade” and “racketeering." These are practices that were supposedly stopped in the early 1900s to protect smaller businesses from being bullied by monopolies or near-monopolies. Who’s protecting whom, now?

We just got your new book in the mail and(im the youghest) im already on page 13. I really like your new book and this blog.God Bless You!

Bob and Amanda,

I apologize for my misstatement. Amanda has it right and I made a mistake when I stated my facts.

Lets get it right one more time....we have never ever outsourced for any of our bottled raw milk!!

We have outsourced for some raw milk to make butter and raw cheese. Our last load of this type of raw milk was last March 2009. Both raw cheese and raw butter are not tested for pathogens becuase they are class 4a and 4b manufacturing products. These two raw dairy products are not subject to the coliform limits or pathogen testing standards and I forgot to include them into my statements. Anyone in CA can make Raw Butter and Raw Cheese and not be considered to be a raw milk dairymen under the CA raw milk standards we all fight over constantly.

When arguing this point over and over and over....my "classes" of raw milk sometimes get crossed up....so shoot me. It is not a secret arround OPDC or with our consumers that we have in the past purchased some raw milk to make FDA authorized raw cheese that is aged over 60 days and that we have in the past purchased some raw milk to skim and make butter.

Mark

A question for one of the few good lawyers that frequent here (NOT the BFPS).

Since the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO Act or RICO) is a federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization, and since it appears that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection AND the dairy processors are colluding to kill raw milk by cutting off farmers at both ends, and since these actions appear to involve restraint of trade violations, could a civil action be undertaken under the RICO laws against WDATCP and/or Foremost/NFO?

This used to be the people's country. It's time we take it back.

Bob Hayles
http://www.juicymaters.com

Bob et al. I've often heard of the Milk Processors Associations referred to as the "Milk Mafia", but never made the connection with RICO :>)

Probably need to look more at US Competition Law, or antitrust and the unfair trade practices that include restraint of trade, price fixing and the like.

I suppose the arrogance of power and control is behind continuing activities that may bring them further into the spotlight of "anti-trust" given pending lawsuits and anticipated actions of the Justice Department. Google "antitrust milk processors."

There are some interesting articles on milk processors and anti trust:

http://www.jsonline.com/business/63347457.html

http://lancasterfarming.com/node/2298

and a good explanation of US Competition laws at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition_law

David--thank you for your new book. It should provide an important read for law students and attorneys (well--I guess any citizen) regarding Constitional law and liberty interests. It is well written; I especially appreciate your balanced discussion of the science and statistics.

My advice to the Trautman's

Hold close to your raw milk consumers. They are your parachute in this freefall.

In 2002 Organic Valley did the same thing to OPDC. They cut us off when they found out we were competing with them at Wholefoods by selling our raw milk in a competing brand on the same dairy case. They have UHT dead milk and we had organic living raw milk. They hated that and dropped us on our heads. We depended on our customers to pick up the slack and for a very short period we sold come excess milk to Horizon. They needed organic milk badly for a short period back then.

When considering the departure from the relative safety of flying along with a creamery processor....before you decide to tell the processor that you are jumping off the aircraft to sell raw milk...remember that you will need your parachute. Your parachute must be tested and ready or else you are going to have a hard landing.

I have learned that no flight with a processor is safe. So make your plans in strategic silence and jump only when the consumers can catch you.

Try selling your extra milk to a small cheese maker until you can develop your market for selling it all raw milk. Or better yet...start making your own raw milk cheeses and sell that as a new product. This is a growth opportunity. 40 gallons of raw milk will make you 40 pounds of good qulaity raw milk cheese that can sell for $10-15 per pound. That sure beats the payment from the creamery of $1 - 2 per gallon

In the raw milk world....Lemons must become Sweet Organic Lemonade and do it with class and a smile. Take that extra 40 gallons of raw milk and get your cheese operations going tommorrow and keep the money. This is just a boot in the butt to get it going early. You do not need the creamery check....it stinks anyway.

All the best,

Mark McAfee

To Mark and all other concerned...
And there lies the problem we have seen too many times outside of California...
The parachute we thought we could depend on was a rude departing gift of kleenex & bandaids..all the while the ground becomes ever closer and we make do.
The habit of the next fool mentality of many raw milk drinkers has got to stop.
Wether in the way we are asked to produce milk for the misunderstood practices of a good author..or the evaporation of the consumers when the State calls and collars a caretaker who is simply performing and job for the real owners whom are no longer visable.
Ownership has its responsiblities..that is not letting someone you hired take the rap because it is the States ability to frame the argument.
The argument In California is that consumers have rights..most other places in the States we need to frame the argument of Ownership rights..which these rights are given very wide berth by the State for the very reason they are sound and just.
My plea to all who trust, hire & depend on a person to supply one of the most important food products we can aquire..stand by them when the State calls..40 extra gallons.. come on people..I will mail ya the hot chocolate to move that amount of extrta milk!!!!!!!!!
FarmerTim

Geeze...it's sooo tempting...but no...I better sit with this one for a while first...

Bob Hayles
http://www.juicymaters.com

Right-On Brother Tim....golden words.

Mark

Off topic, but a response to Sylvia about the proposed raw oyster ban:

1. The problem involves raw gulf coast oysters, especially those produced during the warmer months when the risk of contamination with Vibrio vulnificus is higher; it does not involve raw oysters from the west coast
2. The State of California banned raw Gulf Coast oysters in 2003.
3. Almost all of the deaths from Vibrio vulnificus linked to raw gulf coast oysters have been among immunocompromised individuals, specifically individuals suffering from liver cirrhosis/alcoholism, diabetes, and other chronic health problems; most of those that died from consumption of raw gulf coast oysters contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus were Hispanic males.
4. Post-harvest processing of these higher risk oysters from the gulf coast has prevented illnesses and deaths among these vulnerable populations in California. For this reason, national regulations are being considered.

Michael Taylor from FDA said this a couple weeks ago:

"In 2003, the State of California prohibited Gulf Coast oysters from entering the state unless they had undergone post-harvest processing. The results were stark. Between 1991 and 2001, 40 deaths had occurred in the State due to Vibrio vulnificus. Once PHP was required, the number of deaths dropped to zero, and has remained there for the last 6 years, with the only possible case during that entire period being investigated as we meet today. Post harvest processing as required by California has largely eliminated Vibrio vulnificus-related deaths and illness from consuming raw oysters."

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Speeches/ucm187012.htm

Lykke, your post about the oysters hits home with me, and demonstrates EXACTLY why laws against oysters...and raw milk...should be thrown out.

You see, I fit the description of the likely raw oyster victim perfectly with the exception being that I am not Hispanic.

I AM an alcoholic...by the grace of God a recovering alcoholic, but an alcoholic just the same.

I DO have a compromised liver...a fairly high amount of liver damage actually. I spent a few months earlier this year on a transplant waiting list, told I would die within a year without a new liver, until my liver function tests improved and my doctor decided to take me off the list...for the time being.

I DO have a compromised immune system due to complications of the alcoholism.

I AM a diabetic (type II), dealing with the diabetes and all the associated problems that go with it...neuropathy, etc.

I DO have other cronic issues, like mid-stage emphesyma.

I am exactly the person that raw oyster laws, or raw milk laws for that matter, claim to need protection the most...yet I fight tooth and nail against those laws.

Why?

Because when the government presumes to protect me from my own choices, to protect me from myself, regarding food and otherwise, they presume a level of ownership over me that they simply do not have. No one on this earth owns me, least of all a government.

A high level of risk doesn't change that. If it did the gin that almost killed me would be illegal. It kills far more people than oysters OR milk.

As a percentage of the population that participates, bungee jumping, auto racing, messing with jealous men's wives...all those have FAR more risk than eating raw oysters OR drinking raw milk, even for someone like me...but they aren't illegal.

Should the government educate? Yes...but truthfully, not scare tactics.

But that is it. Put the information about risks out there. Make sure the information is widely available. Do not allow producers to commit fraud by making false claims of supposed health benefits or discounting of risks.

All that is fine...but then the government should step back. They have neither the constitutional right or the moral authority to do more.

This used to be the people's country. Its time we take it back.

Bob Hayles
http://www.juicymaters.com

Mark,

Do you really think people are going to believe my classes of raw milk sometimes get crossed up excuse? Please spare us the pathetic cover-up story.

In retrospect, I dont suppose revelations of outsourcing for non-fluid dairy products should come as a big surprise. After all in a press release following the Organic Pastures 2007 listeria recall of cream, Mark said very clearly If OPDC can not source raw cream from outside, our raw cream and butter would be in extremely short supply and rarely available. The statement does however make one wonder how Mark confused whether he outsourced for butter, cream etc.

I did some investigating. TB can survive in butter for extended periods:

Viable bacilli can be found in yoghurt and cream cheese made from unpasteurized milk for up to 14 days after preparation and in butter for up to 100 days (Journal Tuberculosis (2006) 86, 77109.)

The danger associated with outsourcing from herds that are not TB tested every year is not simply speculative.

In 2008 dairy cattle in the southern central valley were found to have contracted TB. This lead to a massive testing program which included testing more than 400,000 dairy cows from some 250 herds.

Two of the herds which were depopulated (destroyed) for TB were in Fresno County, the same county as Organic Pastures.

All it would take would be one out-sourcing from the wrong, close by dairy and you now have a human TB outbreak.

Most California herds dont TB test every year since the danger of TB is removed by pasteurization.

If you want more information about bovine TB you can see the California Department of Food and Agriculture page at: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/Animal_Health/TB_Info.html

cp

http://www.triplicate.com/20091102107369/News/Local-News/BABY-STEPS

Part III: What is a recovery? The final segment of the Mari Tardiff story.

I would encourage everyone to read it.

cp

Regardless of which side of the "raw milk debate" you're on, this story is worth reading. "Gordon" on a raw milk listserve even described it as "important reading for advocates of REAL MILK..."

Link to all 3 parts:

http://www.triplicate.com/20091103107383/Online-Extras/Community/MARIS-CLIMB-3-Part-Series

CP,

I certainly hope you feel better now. The entire story is told and out in the open. FYI....It has always been out in the open and never a secret....so I have no idea what you are trying to accomplish with the repeated and continual unearthing and rebarial of old information. CDFA controls the management of our purchasing of class four milk and movement of all raw milk. We must report it to them and they have no problem at all with anything we have done in the past.

Just to make it official one more time....OPDC does not bottle anyone elses raw milk except for OPDC's raw milk from its own cows.

CP.....can we now discuss what the hell happened at Whittier Farms in 2007 when pastueruized milk killed three people and the FDA failed to recall the defective product for six months???!!! This is an outrage. This topic deserves discussion.

We can also discuss Dr. Bruce Germans discoveries at UC Davis ( CMAB Research Work ) where he confirms that the best bioactive parts of raw milk are destroyed or changed during processing. He is the brilliant scientist that performed the Milk Biogenome project and found the bioactive components of breast milk and raw milk to be critical its immune value. Yes....that is right, a scientsis that says that the living unprocessed components of raw milk are its "secret sauce". If you are a truly concerned person...go complain about deli meets. They are ten times more potentially dangerous than raw milk. The CDC did not even list raw milk on its top ten dangerous foods list. Are you truly a Concerned Person or are you a tool of the political machine sent to hurt our god given choices and our rights as citizens?

I know for one thing....you do not have the guts to use your real name and identity yourself and this is cowardly.

Mark

Lykke,

Your email link to Cardif is very heart wrenching and thought provoking. I am so very glad she seems to be on the mend.

Every year untold numbers of people become very sick and many die after taking the flu vaccine and other government suggested vaccinations. This is all dismissed and tolerated as a side effect of a vaccination system that helps far more people than it hurts.

Lykke and CP....why is this a foreign idea to you when applied to raw milk. 5000 kids die every year of Asthma when treated properly with drugs. When kids drink raw milk their asthma goes away.

Raw Milk Saves Lives.....yet you give it zero credit and only assign to it blame. This entire discussion is missing its rational basis.

Mark

Blair,

One of Steve Bemis' 11 Great Thoughts involved exemptions for small farmers. Making that workable (in the context that there is no exemption from food safety), involves personal responsibility by the farmer and the consumer. Know your farmer, know your food only works with honesty. The continued dishonesty by raw milk leaders argues against this model. Saying that "big ag" does bad things doesn't change the fact that raw milk leaders continue to mislead consumers (in order to sell their product?). Its a stretch to embrace the possibly logical argument about exemptions or scaled regulation when this misinformation continues to dominate the raw milk movement.