DATCPs Power Structure Heard the Raw Milk Rumblings; Working Groups Ideas Expected in 6-10 Months

Mike Dummer, chairman of the DATCP Board of Directors, which apparently pushed hard for establishment of the new Wisconsin raw milk working group. Consumers are becoming much more outspoken in demanding access to raw milk, and authorities are beginning to get the message.

Some 50 or more raw milk advocates showed up Tuesday evening at a normally perfunctory meeting of Missouri State Milk Board, and the local media gave it prominent coverage.

The Milk Board, according to the article, has committed to establishing a subcommittee to study the raw milk issue, which has become a big deal in Missouri because the state’s attorney general and Milk Board launched suits against two farmers after public health undercover agents purchased milk from their daughters.

It turns out that it was a similar outpouring of consumer concern—at a meeting in November of the nine-member Board of Directors of Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP)—that led to the sharp about-face by the agency Tuesday with establishment of a raw milk working group in that state. (The board is appointed by the governor; I've included a photo of the board's chairman, Mike Dummer, who seems to be an agribusiness type.)  That November meeting attracted a contingent of raw milk proponents to object to Wisconsin’s crackdown on dairy farmers selling raw milk. I recounted in a November posting how attendees also passed out copies of my book to the directors. 

We may never know how many of them read my book, but according to Donna Gilson, DATCP’s press representative, the November board meeting “was when this whole raw milk thing came to a head. A lot of raw milk advocates who came to that meeting spoke eloquently. The board and secretary (Rod Nilsestuen) said we need to deal with this somehow.”

The board, which is fairly independent because it is appointed directly by the governor, apparently prevailed on Rod Nilsestuen to form the twenty-person study group I described in my previous post. Donna Gilson described Nilsestuen as upset about the accusations by raw milk advocates, and on this blog, that DATCP was unfairly cracking down on owners of small dairies. “The secretary felt he has been unfairly accused of being anti-small-family-farm,” she said. “He comes from a small family farm. He has said over and over that we need economic diversity. He is troubled by the problems of the dairy industry.”

Well, maybe the fact that DATCP has conducted an aggressive six-month campaign against small-dairy producers and distributors of raw milk may have something to do with the accusations. But this was a discussion about what’s happening now and looking ahead, so I didn’t bring up those unpleasantries.

According to Donna Gilson, the new working group should have its first meeting during the second half of next month, and recommendations ready to present in six to ten months.

She added that it’s not clear what effect of the working group might have on proposed legislation introduced in the Wisconsin legislature that would legalize the sale of raw milk by licensed Grade A dairies. She noted that DATCP has taken no official position on the legislation. She said it’s possible the legislation could pass, and the study group’s recommendations would relate to how best to implement the legislation; or it’s possible the legislation doesn’t pass, and the study group could make recommendations on new legislation. Or the study group could recommend against any sale of raw milk. “It’s all hypothetical,” she said.

She did note that the new study group’s meetings will be open to the public. Seems like it may be a good idea for raw milk proponents to attend.

One final thing:  the concerns Lola Granola, Miguel, and Don Wittlinger have about the role of regulators and their licenses are well taken. For now, though, as Devon Hernandez suggests, licensing is embedded into our regulatory culture. Even Lykke seems in good spirits about the move toward a spirit of cooperation, despite the fact that the move is an accommodation the authorities can't have been pleased to make. Farmers in many states need licenses to sell their milk, so, like it or not, it’s the system they deal with. (The challenges to the system are out there, most notably in the case of Barb and Steve Smith, which was argued this week by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund in the New York State Supreme Court.)


Each time I hear moaning and groaning about the terrible state of “the dairy industry,” I think about owners of raw dairies, who are working not only to supply consumers with the milk they want, but to establish a new economic model for the dairy business. I just wrote an article at Grist.org about my Public Radio pitch to get the dairy establishment to consider the raw dairy model.


The Marler Blog features a video of Mary McGonigle-Martin and family. Mary, as many here know, was a regular blogger here after her son became seriously ill from hemolytic uremic syndrome. Mary seeks to warn viewers away from raw milk.

I don't see anything wrong with the idea of licenses.A license is an endorsement or certification.It helps consumers to find producers that are following certain guidelines.It helps producers by being endorsed by someone who has credibility with the public.But what happens when that endorser loses credibility with the public?Then the endorsement loses it's value to both the public and the producer.Instead of offering a service by making these endorsements,now the endorser is in a position of having to "require" producers to obtain their endorsement.

What has led to the loss of credibility by agricultural and public health agencies and how can their credibility be restored?Maybe these agencies are beginning to see that the public is concerned and is taking action to establish new guidelines for producers and new ways to certify or endorse the way their food is produced.When government fails to work for the people,the best way to change things is to get busy and do that work for ourselves.Are the regulators ready to get back to work on behalf of the public or will they continue trying to impose Agribizness agendas on us?Do they have any credibility left to lose?

The easiest way to shut up a barking dog is to throw it a bone (at least when others are looking)

While many will see this a 'progress', realism shows that these folks aren't changing their minds, just their tactics. Dollar will get you a dime that in the end little will change because of this working group...and those that serve Big Dairy will continue their evil ways.

That Nilsesteuen believes he is being falsely accused of being anti small farm is laughable...unless of course his management technique includes not knowing what his minions are doing. Liars lie, and when pressed on the issue, feign outrage.

David, while you do deserve props for attempting to shine line on a 'new economic model', the response that you got is not unexpected. We'll be getting a whole lot more of lip service and falsehoods before raw milk will be legally readily available in this country.

There is a place, in the raw milk movement, for some to engage and educate regulators, but imo it pales to those that continue to shoot the bird at the authorities, ignore licensing and other unjust regulation, and continue to dedicate themselves to a herd, and produce the substance that heals so many. Talk doesn't put jugs in the refrigerator.

Gordon Watson side of the story in British Columbia.
Perhaps there could be a positive result produced by licensing IF there was a "completely unbiased" license issuing agency that acted as a PARTNER UNITED with the small raw dairy farmers with the goal to provide a pure clean healthy product for the public. But thats not what we see. The war on raw dairy is not just a slogan but a vivid discription of the events that unfolded over the last three years. How do farmers make peace with their attackers and survive? I wish I knew that answer.

Licensing and inspections are tools of power and control. They were neither designed, nor intended for producing safe and nourishing food; nor can they as history has well proven.

Anyone agitating for licensing and inspection while talking about food safety speaks with a forked tongue.

Licenses are just another way of giving a government that doesn't know its butt from the hole in the ground it crawled out of more power. Licenses issued against state and federal law are illegal.

Why does something need to be licensed in this country in order to be considered "OK" - I can print up a license if that's what is needed, and I can even put my own corporate seal on it - and it would mean more than a DATCP license any day.

Furthermore, in this case, the licenses aren't about anything remotely related to a quality product (not that inspections are so great at ensuring this either). These licenses will create a situation where small farmers and those producing for their own families are put at risk.

If this license and regulation sounds kosher, you might want to check what is happening in other areas of the country and at the federal level. I'm sorry, but I have been consuming FRESH milk for quite a long time. It is not an "accident" that I have never become ill, as most government officials would have people believe. I'd be hard-pressed to drink unpasteurized milk from any of the major producers - that WOULD kill me. But - THAT is what this garbage is leading to.

Not one time has a family farm (you know - the real kind where Mom, Dad, the kids and the grand-parents really actually TOUCH the animals and work the farm, not the family-owned multi-national BS that passes these days for a "family farm") has been implicated in ANY recall in the past 6 years that I know of. Not one family sized processor has, either.

Yet - the people seem to think that the producers who are NOT causing illness and recalls should be under the identical financial, legislative and administrative burdens same as those who are.

If people keep tossing the baby out with the bathwater, the next will be a very small generation. Works for the conspiracy theorists - population reduction on a massive scale. Works for Darwin, too. Survival of the fittest includes the brain power to find real food.

You can't bring home-made treats to school anymore because people insist the government knows best. Are the kids any safer? NO! They get sick on the commercial brands that forgot there was a peanut recall. You have to register with the FDA to sell at a farmer's market. Has the incidence of illness decreased? NO! Mainly because you have to shop at a store to get sick - there are NO cases from local growers on the FDA, CDC or USDA sites. Now they want to license you to sell straight off your own farm. Will it make anyone healthier? NO! But it will make the medical/pharmaceutical community even richer off the stupidity of the public than they are now.

Well, wait till you can't grow your own garden. Same people who want all this control over small family dairies and other livestock operations are going to find its in their own backyard next - and I will be laughing.