How Uncertain Legislative Battles Over Raw Milk Mask the New Realities of the Marketplace

It’s only Thursday, and I find myself planning my food club order, to be entered Sunday and delivered late next week. Actually, I’ve been planning it for several days already. How many dozen eggs should I order? How much kefir? How many beef livers? How much raw milk? 

 

Sometimes I am resentful that I have to plan so far in advance, when many of my friends and neighbors satisfy all their needs on demand, at the local supermarket, or at box stores. But, then I remind myself that I am accessing food of much higher quality and nutritional benefit than I could ever find in the public markets (at least in Massachusetts). 

 

A couple of pieces of legislation that might have made such foods more easily available via deliveries and cow shares have stalled in the Massachusetts legislature….again. But I am coming to realize that isn’t unusual and, more important, it’s not necessarily a terrible negative. 

 

I am grateful that I can access high-quality nutrient-dense food from farmers and other producers I know and respect. Regardless of what happens legislatively, I expect I and my co-members will continue to access such foods, not only because we value the foods, but because we value the farmers producing the foods. 


Raw milk opponents, and their corporate backers, tend to get wrapped up in keeping score as they try to block legislation to expand availability of raw dairy. They take joy in defeating this or that legislative initiative, and think they have deprived people of food people highly value.  

 

Well, I’ve got news for them. The tenor of the struggle over raw milk has shifted, and it is less about notches in the belt, and more about educating politicians and the public at large, as well as enjoying the expanding relationships with producers that more are discovering comes along with raw milk.  

 

There’s a story at the Weston A. Price Foundation web site suggesting some raw milk drinkers in Georgia are worried about proposed legislation that would allow raw milk retail sales. As it is, raw milk sales are illegal except for pet food, but  many people ignore the limitation and buy raw milk directly from farmers for themselves, not their pets. People appreciate the relationships they have with dairy farmers, and they worry the new legislation could mean all kinds of new regulations around retail selling of raw milk—regulations that could rock their boat. 

 

Similarly, Liz Reitzig provides an upbeat account of the defeat of legislation in Maryland--yet again-- that would have allowed herdshares there. She is upbeat because, even though the legislation never made it to a legislative committee vote, the raw milk flows for those in Maryland who want it, and many more people in the FDA’s home state are aware of the real issues around raw milk. It would have been nice to have the legislature following along with the reality of what’s happening on the ground, especially for Maryland farmers who feel hamstrung by the prohibition on any kind of raw milk sales in the state, and it still may, next year or the year after. 

 

In California, it’s a similar situation. Legislation is pending to allow herdshare arrangements for the more than 1,000 home dairies are distributing raw milk via herdshare arrangements. While those doing it would like to gain legal clarity via the legislation, it’s not as if the milk is going to stop flowing if the legislature delays or the governor demurs. No, raw milk is going to be widely available in California straight from the farm, along with at retail. There is no way the authorities could stop it, and the longer they allow it to flow unimpeded, the more difficult it ever would be to separate people from their food. 

 

The message in all these legislative tales, different as they might be in their details, is that the word is getting around and ever more people are becoming educated about raw milk. People who want access are finding access. The legislative process continues to expand, on a stop-and-start basis, and in so doing, becomes  as much an educational process as a law-making process. 

 

And acceptance of raw milk expands. Just in the last few days, a coalition of 19 House members in Washington have introduced bipartisan legislation to weaken or eliminate the federal ban on interstate sales of raw milk, according to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. It wasn’t that long ago when Rep. Ron Paul had difficulty getting even a single co-sponsor of his legislation to eliminate the federal ban on raw milk. 

 

This new federal initiative, like many at the state level, may well die. But make no mistake about it. The nature of the game is changing, becoming less black and white.  More and more people are living according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory, “Know your farmer, know your food.”  The longer the game stays uncertain, and the market for raw milk continues to expand, and the more people learn from their friends and neighbors about the real pros and cons, the more it becomes a fact of life. 

 

Big picture, this new reality is much different than the raw milk opponents envisioned a decade ago. Remember, back in 2000, raw milk was facing a very uncertain future around the U.S. The largest raw dairy in the country, Alta Deena, had stopped producing the raw milk that supplied much of the West, and raw dairies and commercial dairies were dropping like flies in the Midwest and East. Today, we see, in many areas of the country, thriving raw dairies. It’s a quiet marketplace, but it is a growing and expanding marketplace, and it is creating new facts on the ground. 


I don’t want to seem to be diminishing what those working on behalf of new legislation are doing. Quite the contrary. Those efforts are more important than ever. What’s essential to appreciate is that everyone working on behalf of legislative change isn’t fighting an all-or-none battle. Each legislative proposal to legalize wider access to raw milk is also part of an educational process, part of an effort to broaden direct farm-to-consumer relationships,  part of an effort to encourage sustainability, part of an effort to inform about the dangers of factory food. New legislation will certainly clarify things in certain areas, but it is ever less central to how people are living their lives. 

Ora Moose's picture

Nice picture again David. The "fair Mëllech" written on the side of the cow set me off on a search to find out more about it. Even though I cold not find the words raw or pasteurized anywhere on any of the five EU countries' websites http://www.fairmilk.org/en/fairmilk/the-fair-milk-in-5-eu-countries.html , the Luxemburg site says:

"Par lait UHT, on entend un lait obtenu par ultra-haute température, donc homogénéisé et de longue conservation grâce à l’upérisation à haute température. Il est obtenu en portant le lait de vache d’abord à ultra-haute température (quelques secondes à une température de 143°), puis en le refroidissant tout aussi rapidement à une température de 4° à 5°. Grâce à cette différence de température extrême, le lait est instantanément stérilisé."

Basic summarized translation, fair milk is homogenized at ultra high temperatures and sterilized. Shame, I was wishing it was raw milk. And maybe it is in other countries, since the "fair milk" designation seems to be more of a sustainable pricing issue, than a processing vs non-processing issue. If anyone can read German or Dutch, perhaps you can check those sites for more info.

An interesting aside, the Luxemburg site also says "Une étude récente effectuée à Avellino en Italie par l’Institut d’études nutritionnelles auprès de 1000 élèves a en outre révélé que le lait, contrairement à une opinion généralement répandue, ne fait pas grossir, mais au contraire maigrir! "

Summarized translation: A study in Italy found that milk, contrary to general opinion, doesn't make one get fat, but in the contrary get skinny!

Ora Moose's picture

After reflecting on my comment I'd like to follow up by saying that I don't think this "fair milk" concept would get far here in the USA, it would be akin to trying to get McDonalds to pay fair wages or even an extra penny to field workers. It would be suppressed quickly by Big Milk at least for their slave suppliers, leaving only the small independent dairies to set their own market price as is happening now.

I also meant to end my comment by saying congratulations to Edwin. You have joined a group of pioneers and it won't be until later when we look back that your work will be truly appreciated.

David Gumpert's picture

Ora, I must admit I didn't look closely at what was written on the cow. I was more taken by the patriotic red, white, and blue. 

Ora Moose's picture

David, I figured that was the case but in fact since it's a European thing the red white and blue is actually a symbol of France, same colors different jingoism. At least they attack the world mostly with wine and food, not bombs and propaganda.

mark mcafee's picture

Edwin,

Your outreach and teaching day sounds awesome!!! That is teaching....your sales will rage, your consumers will hug and things will change. The very basis of this fantastic change is consistant food safety results. The track record being created right now is the basis for future change. Dr. Cat Berge and other PhDs are gathering the data from RAWMI and EU sources to publish an article later this year. The article will clearly show the RAWMI LISTED results in comparison to other foods and in comparison to other raw milks internationally. It will be a block buster and crack a paradigm. No other raw milk data has been collected and matched with RAMP plans or farmers that have been audited and follow a specific set of guidelines. Perhaps RMAC comes close...but RAWMI is setting a new track record that is trackable and clearly defendable.

Proud of all the RAWMI LISTED producers and the other producers that are following good practices.

mark mcafee's picture

Mary,

You could very well be right about pasteurized casein....who knows???

"Pasteurization intolerance" has not been well defined. It is crystal clear that it exists for sure, we just do not know what it is...all we know is that consumers get sick from pasteurized fluid milk and refuse to buy and drink it!! Instead they drink raw milk and rave about the digestibility, flavor and lack of allergies.

Let the "dollar votes" land where they land!! The truth is the truth.

Mary McGonigle-Martin's picture

Mark, there is a difference between an allergy and a sensitivity. An IgE milk allergy to casein can kill you. An IgG milk sensitivity to casein causes uncomfortable symptoms. A person that has a IgE food allergy to casein will die from both raw or pasteurized milk.

churchlanefarm's picture

Mary

Whether its an allergy (IGe) or a sensitivity (IGg), to either lactose or casein all such conditions are a reflection of immune malfunction disorders.

Just as peanut oil is used as an ingredient in several vaccines so are lactose, bovine casein and lactalbumin. “Lactalbumin is the albumin contained in milk and obtained from whey. Lactalbumin is found in the milk of many mammals. There are alpha and beta lactalbumins; both contained in milk”.

Some of the vaccines that use or contain the above ingredients include
BCG, Hib, Meningococcal, MMR and Polio.

When the above ingredients are injected into an infant’s body bypassing natural protein censoring mechanisms is it any wonder that such allergies and sensitivities are developing.

Ken

Edwin Shank's picture

Your observations are right on David….as they usually are :) “The tenor of the struggle over raw milk has shifted, and it is…more about educating politicians and the public at large.”

Opinions, biases, wrong impressions and phobias all perish in the face of someone successfully doing what ‘everyone knows’ cannot be done. Think Galileo, Columbus, the first persons to promote eating tomatoes, Dr. James Lind and his citrus fruit cure for scurvy to name just a few.

These folks changed the established dogma and even eventually the laws of their land. But they did it by repeatedly, successfully and safely doing the very thing that could not be done and educating those around them in the process. Time is the factor that is hard. Dr. Lind was laughed off by the British MD’s for 50 years! But…
‘Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers.” ~ Bryant

Ora, thanks for the best wishes and welcome. I’m mentoring a friend from MA who is starting his own 10-20 cow raw milk Jersey herd. Of course, I’m insisting that he do a test-and-hold laboratory. He says no problem…that is the exact kind of safety plan he wants as well. I’ll let you all know when he is up and running. I think he’s in North West MA.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

I am sure there may have been a few kids with severe food allergies when I was in grade school, I never met any of them, being an army brat, I went to many schools. Peanut butter& jelly was a brown bag lunch staple.

Now a days there are so many adults and kids with so many severe allergies, whether to foods or asthma. I've not seen any "research" on why there is such a drastic increase in numbers, as it is with "Autism" and other ailments.

"When the above ingredients are injected into an infant’s body bypassing natural protein censoring mechanisms is it any wonder that such allergies and sensitivities are developing."

I believe your statement hits the nail right on the head and is a major contributor and/or cause of the increases.

D. Smith's picture

This sounds hopeful. It's written by Thomas Massie who is a congressman and a rancher - and he eats, too.

[quote from article]: Congressman Massie (R–KY), Chellie Pingree (D–ME) and a bipartisan coalition of 18 other lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve consumer food choices and to protect local farmers from federal interference. The two bills – the “Milk Freedom of Act of 2014” and the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014” – are the first in a series of “food freedom” bills that Rep. Massie plans to introduce this year.

“As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers. Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” said Rep. Massie. “The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”
[end quote]

Taken from this link: http://libertycrier.com/thomas-massie-introduces-bipartisan-milk-freedom...

In some States, (like mine) however, the wheels are coming off the bus because the regulators don't want change, are afraid of change and won't support change unless it's done their way and only their way. I'm afraid the people here just aren't going to settle for that. Our processors close down before they bow to ridiculous regulations, requirements and requests.

We can only hope that legislation like this actually gets somewhere (other than tabled and never looked at again) and can bring change at some point for ALL States where people truly want food freedoms.

David Gumpert's picture

Two big dairy processor organizations have now come out against the Massie bills proposing to end the federal ban on interstate sales of raw milk. They use the identical language of their boy, John Sheehan of the FDA, when they talk about "playing Russian roulette with the health of too many Americans." 

It's obvious they are pissed as hell about legislation that has passed in several states making raw milk more available, when they say: "Several states in recent years have considered and approved legislation expanding the sales of raw milk, even as the product has been repeatedly linked to serious illnesses from coast to coast." All the more reason to get more legislation passed. 

http://www.dairyherd.com/dairy-news/IDFA-NMPF-oppose-raw-milk-bill-25271...

D. Smith's picture

But of course! I can only imagine the dairy organizations are doubly pissed because Massie was probably expecting their move, and because he actually knows the in's and out's of biGAG and bigDairy, not to mention he's in a prettttttty good position to DO something about the whole mess - if no one else drops the ball, you know, some "committee" or whatnot. ;-> I hope Massie himself has the time to follow both of these bills around like they're little lost calves.

But it is bigDairy's style to spread falsehoods. It's what they do best. It will be interesting to see if Massie (or any of the other bill supporters) counter with statements to the contrary.

how they're doing in New Zealand

with raw milk dairying, you're not really in the game 'til you've been through a recall
^^^^^^^^^^^

Human error is responsible for raw milk being contaminated with campylobacter that has resulted in the shutdown of a Village Milk outlet in Timaru, says Village Milk chief executive Mark Houston. Seven people have been confirmed to have contracted campylobacter after drinking raw milk from the farm which has a Village Milk franchise.
... In warning people of the risks of drinking raw milk, medical officer of health Daniel Williams described the confirmed cases as the "tip of the iceberg".
Timaru Village Milk announced the outbreak on its Facebook page on Wednesday and said it would stop selling milk until test results showed it was clear of the problem. Village Milk, started by the Houston family in Takaka in December 2011, now has franchises in Oxford, Greymouth, Moutere, and Gordonton, Hamilton. The Timaru franchise started three weeks ago.
... Mr Houston said the problem stemmed from new cows being introduced to the Timaru herd.
"The rules are, you test them and you don't put their milk into the dispenser until the results come back. If they are clear you're good to go. "The farmer, Stu Weir, basically made a mistake and put the milk into the dispenser before the test results came back. "It's not a failure of our systems, they were working perfectly. It's human error, they got it wrong and did not carry out the procedure."
... Mr Weir acknowledged the mistake. "We let people down by not carrying out procedures properly; it's a bit disappointing," he said.
Mr Houston said testing meant that on three other occasions Village Milk had stopped selling milk - twice in Hamilton this year when milk was not up to the right standard and there was coliform from the milking plant not washing well enough, and once in Oxford at the end of the year when campylobacter showed up. Nobody was sick and a UV water filtration system had improved the water supply, he said.
... When Village Milk stopped selling milk it had good feedback from the public on its Facebook page. "They have said thank you for being careful and we're looking forward to when it is back," said Mr Houston. It was a personal choice whether people bought raw milk, he said.
... "There's always a potential risk with sale of unprocessed food, it's up to people to make up their own mind." While shutdowns seemed a bit odd, they were an integral part of the management of the milk, he said. "If they have a problem they have to sort it out."
... The comprehensive testing regime included daily tests at the farm for somatic cell count, a measure of udder health, and weekly for aerobic plate count (APC) which measured bacteria in milk, as well as for coliform and E coli. At the end of each month tests for inhibitors such as penicillin and somatic cell counts were sent to Hamilton for analysis, and bimonthly for pathogens such as campylobacter, salmonella and listeria.
... Mr Houston said the Weirs would not lose their franchise. "It's human error, people should not make mistakes but you should not be shot at dawn." In Nelson, Oaklands Milk, which sells pasteurised milk direct from its Stoke farm and at two city outlets, is looking at selling raw milk from the farm.
Owner Julian Raine said: "We had been hoping to sell raw milk by now but we are taking a slow and measured approach to it. We have to get it right. The stakes are too high if you get it wrong."
There was certainly a demand for raw milk, he said. "There would not be a day pass when I am not asked for raw milk."

David Gumpert's picture

The fact that Politico is giving attention to the legislative proposals to eliminate the interstate ban on raw milk sales suggests they could attract ongoing debate in Washington. Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and I are among a number of people quoted in this article. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/raw-politics-drive-milk-wars-10516...

D. Smith's picture

I really wish they hadn't used Hartke's words in this article. As long as it's considered a "grassroots" thing (which always has that long-haired-hippie sound to it) and as long as "energy and enthusiasm" seem to be the only things going for this bill (because she out and out says she doesn't expect these bills to pass) I don't see much future in the whole thing either. I mean really, if people like Hartke are already doubtful about the outcome, how much help can that be to the process? Pete Kennedy wasn't really helpful either. He should have defended the stats of raw vs pasteurized, not compared raw milk to other "dangerous" products.

If people like Baylen Linnekin and David were kept at the forefront of these articles, the bills might stand a chance simply from a food freedom standpoint. What this movement can't portray is the idea that raw milk drinkers and other foodies are fighting a losing battle from the get-go.

And weren't those statistics used in this article some of the skewed stuff that was misinterpreted long ago? From 2006. Not exactly up to date and it wouldn't fly with anything else "scientific". Notice the writer never mentioned any health stats involving pasteurized milk.

What makes the writer think it's a "strange alliance"?? Just because it's bipartisan? Sheesh what century does he think this is? People who want raw milk can come from either side of the fence but that shouldn't make it strange, should it? Why is wanting food freedoms a concept that most people just don't grasp?

Baylen is right - let's embrace the freedom issues, not the science issues. Not that the science isn't important but if they're gonna use it, they should use truthful and more current information. Why not include some anecdotal info, too - after all that comes from the people who are actually producing and drinking raw milk, which should realistically carry more weight than anything else.

mark mcafee's picture

The interstate raw milk sets against the political back drop of my FDA citizens petition that is sitting someplace deep in the FDA. The petition is on its second round and is a inches thick at 500 pages of heavy EU science, studies, RAWMI data, standards, etc etc...etc.

The FDA denied science, refused to address the 70 deaths from pasteurized milk and cheeses since 1972 and outright became a bit arrogant in their answers to questions. This latest round of Citizen Petition effort is now coming up on one year. The FDA is required by law to respond with in 180 days...which they have not. Looks like more FTCLDF federal litigation is coming soon to compel them to follow the law.

More heat and pressure the better....sounds like some congressman love their raw milk. With just a couple of Dr. Paul followers supporting interstate commerce of raw milk five years ago and now 18 more mainstream congressman supporting the change, since math says that this wall is falling...just a matter if time. Raw milk can also help itself by staying clean and safe as his paradigm shifts.

David Gumpert's picture

Mark, your petition, and the huge amount of documentation accompanying it, could be worth introducing to the committee that eventually votes on these proposals. They may want to know why the FDA has failed to follow its own rules about responding to and deciding on citizens petitions. 

D. Smith's picture

An excellent idea. It could turn out to be a very important strategy. The lawmakers should be made aware of what's been going on with the FDA, if only in the case of raw milk. It's not like they don't know the FDA already has mega-problems in various realms.

If it wasn't such an expense to make a few extra copies, it would be good to hand out this paperwork to some of the other bill supporters on The Hill so they become aware of the actual scope and magnitude of this thing. The more people who actually read Mark's documented Citizens Petition, the more support it could generate and possibly open doors to more & other issues, as well.

Is there any way to put together a mini-version of your petition, Mark, just highlighting the main points and explaining how the FDA has so far dungeoned the thing down the rabbit hole rather than addressing your concerns? That in itself might spark just enough attention to get them to look further into the issues.

Maybe it would also help our Congress to realize that foods and drugs should not be regulated by just one agency, for too many reasons to go into here.

mark mcafee's picture

Great idea David,

I need to get the authors name that sponsored this bill....I will invest another $ 300 dollars to make another copy of this tree killing monster 500 page document and send it off along with a letter of protest about the FDA and their unresponsiveness.

One if my wishes and dreams is to have a congressional hearing for this Subject....this bill would be just the grand occasion. I would dearly love to attend and testify along with Edwin Shank and so many others and provide testimony about the emergence of the raw milk markets and provide the reasons why. Then,... march in the moms and their heartfelt stories of raw milk immune system recovery. That will be a day to behold!! I would even bring a couple of conventional dairymen to speak about their loss of fluid pasteurized milk market share...and why. The FDA would not dare appear to face the questions pertaining to why they have invested zero dollars to investigate the EU studies of raw milk....or why they have refused to look at RAWMI data or standards for raw milk in those states that permit retail raw milk...or why it is that their guaranteed safe pasteurized milks and cheeses kill so many when raw milk has killed none since 1972? Quite the Guarantee!!! Answer that question Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Taylor.

Guaranteed,...the FDA will refuse to show....guaranteed the FDA will refuse to answer all of the many hard core questions my citizens petition poses directly at them. What a travesty of pharmacudical Food Inc moral injustice and disservice to America. Sounds like I will be busy this week.

Ora Moose's picture

Mark, repeat after me: honey, not vinegar (don't mean to say vinegar is bad it isn't.) Learn, learn, learn then teach, teach teach show. I'm still personally working on it long time project.

allow me to voice how irritated I get with the simpering "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" line. It is true that "soft words break the bones of princes", so there is a place for that approach, but people who say that's the ONLY way to do it are out of touch with the essential character of the Tyrant.
...Talk to political activists who've engaged the enemy. Without exception, they'll tell you that you have to be prepared at some point to "go to the mat" with the idiots. Meaning : a sharp rebuke
... I strongly recommend every one study David Gumpert's book 'Life Liberty & the Pursuit of Food Rights'. In every one of the contests related, the farmers started out being polite, only to get a lesson in 'the school of hard knocks'. The Tyrant's minions go back to the office and laugh up their sleeves after they've duped the citizen into believing there's a Rule Book, which will be complied-with. Only after the activist realizes the stock in trade of the bureaucracy is ; deception, and that the crypto-sadists' payoff is = the thrill of imposing power for its own sake, does he have a grasp of the problem. See the photo of the smirk on the face of Insp. Rod Asplin on my website
... People who presume this nation is being run according to the quaint, antique notion of "constitutional government", are the natural prey of the Commissars now over-seeing the Union of soviet-ized Socialist Ham-merica. Regardless of what you may think about J. Edgar Hoover, he had one thing right : he said 'one is hampered by encountering a conspiracy so monstrous it's unbelievable' [ my paraphrase] Until a person grasps that much ... especially, that the commies take perverse glee in little people not understanding how badly they're being screwed-over ... you are UN-able to even begin to put the bureau-crazies back in their proper place.
... There is a time and place to tell the Truth in the most caustic language ; confer with : the Bible / lately, the works of Alexandr Solzenhitzen.

Ora Moose's picture

Mark, just so you and the public understand basic food facts. The FDA, EPA, USDA pharmaceudical Food Inc moral injustice and disservice to Americaf pharmacudical Food Inc moral injustice and disservice to America
marathon avoid

Ora Moose's picture

I gotta stop typing in my sleep http://civileats.com/2014/03/28/food-chain-workers-take-action-on-cesar-... March 31st is Cesar Chavez Day as you probably know warehouses wear me out.

D. Smith's picture

Some thoughts:

It was refreshing to read this statement regarding Massie: "In another welcome development, Massie said he intends to introduce other "food freedom"-themed bills later this year."

That quote was taken from this article: http://reason.com/archives/2014/03/29/house-raw-milk-bills-give-hope-to-...

I sure hope Massie follows through with his other food freedom ideas.

The worst part of this whole thing is that his two new milk-related bills won't change anything for raw milk producers on a State basis. Each individual State will still be able to keep their current regulations. "One thing these bills would not do, for example, is provide relief to farmers and consumers in states where raw milk is tightly regulated or plainly illegal." (quoted from the article at the posted link). So, those of us who reside in States where regulators are purposely restricting access to raw milk by adopting ridiculous rules and measures (read: mostly higher costs) for farmers to follow won't be helped, but it is a possible stepping stone.

Also, maybe if State Senators could see what the FDA has been up to (or hasn't), through Mark's struggle to get them to review his Citizens Petition, it would cast a different light on how our congressional representatives view the political processes now in place to get something accomplished. It might actually be beneficial to the raw milk cause if the FDA reps didn't show up in WADC!