We were thinking about getting into the organic chocolate milk market and had a few meeting with some key insiders in the organic milk market and decided not to do that. Now 2 months later all that information was confirmed in an article out today on the AP.
Supplies are low and demand is up for organic milk products. One of the largest organic coops has made their farmers mad and once thier contract is up they won’t be renewing, at least not at the current prices. The coop is making all the money and leaving the farmers in the field.
While it is a good thing that demand is up for organic milk not so good that supplies are low. Price increases are not what we need as consumers.
Organic milk low as demand up and farmers struggle
WESTVILLE, N.Y. – “Got milk?” is getting to be a difficult question when it comes to organic.
Because even as more consumers are willing to pay premium prices for organic milk, supermarkets are having trouble keeping it on the shelves as high feed and fuel prices have left some organic dairy farmers unable to keep up with demand.
“The market has surged faster than supply,” said George Siemon, CEO of Wisconsin-based Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, “and at the same time we had high feed costs reduce supply, so we had a double hit here.”
Organic milk shortages are nothing new. As the milk — which federal regulations require be from cows fed organic feed and free from production-boosting synthetic hormones — rose in popularity during the past decade, there haven’t always been enough farmers to meet demand (it can take three years to transition a conventional dairy farm to organic).
The shortages have been serious enough that major chains like Hannaford Supermarkets in the Northeast and Publix Super Markets in the South recently posted signs in the milk aisle advising shoppers of reduced supply. Some relief is expected with the seasonal spring boost in production. But industry watchers say this shortage is more worrisome because of the alarming jumps in the price of organic corn and other feed coupled with higher fuel costs.
“It’s kind of like a treadmill thing,” said Siobhan Griffin, an upstate New York organic farmer whose cows chomp hay in a hilly pasture. “If you make less milk you make less money, and then you can’t afford to make more milk.”
After a recent dip during the recession, sales of organic milk — which can sell for twice as much or more as conventional milk — are strong again. Sales for organic whole milk were up 16 percent from January through November of last year compared with a year earlier, even as sales of conventional milk declined, according to federal agricultural statistics.
Molly Keveney, a spokeswoman for Horizon Organic, the No. 1 selling organic milk-brand, estimated a 7 percent growth in organic milk demand in a time of flat supply.
Some farmers have switched to less expensive feed, but that reduced production. Griffin, who runs Raindance Organic Farm 55 miles west of Albany, is losing money as costs outrun prices. She sold 15 cows in the fall so she could afford to buy feed for her remaining cows.
In Elko, Minn., Tim Zweber of Zweber Farms said his family sold about 20 milking cows since the fall because of the feed costs, leaving them with about 100. Zweber — who like Griffin is a member of the Organic Valley cooperative— said the price his family receives for its milk versus the high costs of producing it results in margins that are very tight.
“If you can’t make any money doing it, take the word ‘sustainable’ out of organic,” Zweber said with a laugh.
In fact, some struggling farms are switching back to conventional milk or leaving the dairy business entirely. Milk Thistle Farm, a Hudson Valley farm that was a popular vendor at New York City farmers markets, recently announced that it no longer could afford to continue production.
Horizon and Organic Valley say they have more dairy farmers making the transition to organic. But Ed Maltby of the Northeast Organic Producers Alliance said not as many farmers are making the switch because of the economics.
The farmers’ plight illuminates an unusual feature of the U.S. dairy economy: Most farmers do not set their own milk prices. Organic farmers typically enter into contracts with processors. This provides stability compared with the month-to-month pricing of conventional milk, but it has caused problems once food and fuel costs took off.
Both Organic Valley and Horizon Organic, owned by Dean Foods Co., have raised the prices they pay to farmers to account for higher production costs.
But many struggling farmers say they need more. The Northeast Organic Producers Alliance, for instance, is petitioning for a 60 cent a gallon hike. The Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance recently sent a letter to processors seeking an increase that would add 22 cents to a half gallon for consumers
That might be a tough sell.
There are questions over just how much consumers — even those who will pay a premium to support sustainable family farms — will pay for a half gallon of milk. Western alliance president Tony T. Azevedo said he’d like to induce retailers to kick more of their percentage back to the farmers, though he acknowledges that’s “a pretty daunting task.”
Some farm advocates say additional price pressure comes from industrial-style organic farming operations with 1,000 or more milking cows that are producing more milk for “private label” store brands sold in supermarkets and box stores. The large-scale operations, some with their own processing plants, can produce the milk less expensively than traditional farms and put pressure on all producers to keep prices low.
The growth of these industrial-style operations has angered small-farm advocates who say they violate the spirit of organic, sustainably produced food.
“Forget about the letter of the law for a second, these do not comport with the values that the consumers think they’re supporting when they’re buying organic milk,” said Mark Kastel of the Wisconsin-based farm-policy group The Cornucopia Institute.
Though no one knows when supply will catch up with demand, many expect it to at least ease in a couple of months with the production boost that comes each spring when the fields are in bloom and cows can graze. Hannaford is telling customers to expect more consistent inventory levels in April.
Maltby is more pessimistic.
“Perhaps when the cows go out to pasture in the spring, there might be an increase in production, but we don’t anticipate that happening dramatically,” Maltby said. “Nothing will really change until the price that the farmer gets paid starts to meet their cost of production.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Short of buying a cow and having your own supply of truly great raw milk, it looks like you will have to begin paying up for organic milk very soon. It is already over a dollar more per gallon than conventional milk, which i personally would not touch.
The FDA has won its two-year fight to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling fresh, raw milk to eager consumers in the Washington region, after a judge this month banned Daniel Allgyer from selling his milk across state lines, and he told his customers he’ll shut his farm down altogether.
The decision has enraged Mr. Allgyer’s supporters, some of whom have been buying from him for six years and who say the government is interfering with their parental rights to feed their children. But the Food and Drug Administration, which launched a full investigation complete with a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and a straw-purchase sting operation against Mr. Allgyer’s Rainbow Acres Farm, near Lancaster, said unpasteurized milk is unsafe and said it was exercising its due authority to stop its sale from one state to another.
Adding to Mr. Allgyer’s troubles, Judge Lawrence F. Stengel said if he is found to violate the law again he will have to pay the FDA’s costs for investigating and prosecuting him.
His customers are wary of talking publicly, fearing the FDA will come after them.
“I can’t believe in 2012 the federal government is raiding Amish farmers at gunpoint all over a basic human right to eat natural food,” said one, who asked not to be named but who got weekly shipments of eggs, milk, honey and butter from Rainbow Acres. “In Maryland, they force taxpayers to pay for abortions, but God forbid we want the same milk our grandparents drank.”
The war for the right to chose what you eat, without ‘Big Brother’s’ input is escalating lately. Most of the conflict arises around ‘Raw Milk’ and perhaps other raw products. The FDA says they confiscate for safety and ‘fairness’ reasons. Sounds like government double speak to me.
Why don’t we see more action against industrial farms where most of the contamination comes from? Is it fair to pick on one small sub set of a very large industry? Why is it that we the people are viewed as too stupid to make our own choices?
Raw-food raid highlights a hunger
Some people balk at restrictions on selling unprocessed milk and other foods. ‘How can we not have the freedom to choose what we eat?’ one says. Regulators say the rules exist for safety and fairness.
With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts.
Then, guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid’s target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.
“I still can’t believe they took our yogurt,” said Rawesome volunteer Sea J. Jones, a few days after the raid. “There’s a medical marijuana shop a couple miles away, and they’re raiding us because we’re selling raw dairy products?”
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Cartons of raw goat and cow milk and blocks of unpasteurized goat cheese were among the groceries seized in the June 30 raid by federal, state and local authorities — the latest salvo in the heated food fight over what people can put in their mouths.
On one side are government regulators, who say they are enforcing rules designed to protect consumers from unsafe foods and to provide a level playing field for producers. On the other side are ” healthy food” consumers — a faction of foodies who challenge government science and seek food in its most pure form.
They want almonds cracked fresh from the shell, not those run through a federally mandated pasteurization process that uses either heat or a chemical to kill off salmonella and other possible contaminants. They hunger for meat slaughtered on the farm. And they’re willing to pay a premium — $6, $8 or more — for a gallon of milk straight from the cow.
So despite research outlining the dangers of consuming raw milk and other unprocessed foods, they’re finding ways to circumnavigate federal, state and local laws that seek to control what they can serve at the dinner table. Such defiance, they said, comes from growing distrust of a food sector that has become more industrialized and consolidated — and whose products have been at the root of some of the country’s deadliest food contamination cases.
“This is about control and profit, not our health,” said Aajonus Vonderplanitz, co-founder of Rawesome Foods. “How can we not have the freedom to choose what we eat?”
Scientists and regulators point to epidemiological evidence linking disease outbreaks to raw milk: The milk can transmit bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria, which can result in diarrhea, kidney failure or death.
“This is not about restricting the public’s rights,” said Nicole Neeser, program manager for dairy, meat and poultry inspection at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “This is about making sure people are safe.”
Demand for all manner of raw foods — including honey, nuts and meat — has been growing, spurred by heightened interest in the way food is produced. But raw milk in particular has drawn a lot of regulatory scrutiny, largely because the politically powerful dairy industry has pressed the government to act.
It is legal for licensed dairies to sell raw milk at retail outlets in California and 10 other states, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty states allow people to buy unpasteurized milk directly from farms, or take part in a “cow sharing” program (in which a person buys part ownership of an animal and gets some of its milk).
But in the case of Rawesome, regulators allege that the group broke the law by failing to have the proper permits to sell food to the public. While the raid was happening at Rawesome, another went down at one of its suppliers, Healthy Family Farms in Ventura County. California agriculture officials said farm owner Sharon Palmer’s processing plant had not met standards to obtain a license. Palmer could not be reached for comment.
Rawesome’s fans, though, shrugged off such concerns.
“I always had problems with my stomach and digestion with normal milk,” said Darin Nellis, 41, who runs a nonprofit production company in Culver City and has been a member of Rawesome for three months. “I like how raw goat milk tastes, and I feel better.”
Such sentiments exasperate officials at the Food and Drug Administration, which bans interstate sales of raw milk and advises that both milk and honey should be pasteurized.
The debate has boiled at the state level for years. Alta Dena Dairy founder Harold J.J. Stueve fought for decades to help keep raw milk sales legal in California. This year, Wisconsin legislators approved a bill aimed largely at allowing the state’s struggling small farmers to sell more raw milk products. But Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed that bill under pressure from large producers. In neighboring Minnesota, whose official state drink is milk, authorities recently raided a private club similar to Rawesome in south Minneapolis.
Such battles have had a chilling effect on some retailers. Whole Foods Market used to carry raw milk and raw milk products in California and three other states. But in March, the chain pulled all but a few cheeses off its shelves. Part of the reason, it said in a statement, was “the realities of the very high additional costs for liability insurance … because of the potential risks from selling unpasteurized milk and milk products.”
Rawesome was born of consumer frustration. In 1998, James Stewart — a vegetarian who drank raw milk — couldn’t find the stuff in Southern California grocery stores. So he started making road trips to dairies in northern California and to Whole Foods in San Jose, which at the time carried raw milk. Word spread. Family and friends wanted it too.
So Stewart and Vonderplanitz created a private food club where, for a $25 annual fee, members “lease” the land and livestock directly from a farmer. Then, members pay an additional service fee attached to each grocery item, which they say covers the cost of transporting each food item from the farm to Venice.
The pair reasoned that they didn’t need to obtain a license from state or local agencies because they weren’t technically retailers. In 2004, Rawesome opened on Rose Avenue in Venice. “We’re just a place where people come to pick up the products they already own,” Vonderplanitz said.
The L.A. County Public Health Department didn’t see it that way. Vonderplanitz said that in 2005 the agency told Rawesome staff they needed a food-business license. Vonderplanitz said that he objected in a letter, and that the county never replied or followed up. (County officials declined to comment.)
Five years passed. Rawesome now boasts 1,600 members, who battle for street parking every Wednesday and Saturday when the club is open.
Squeezed between a coffee shop and a vintage guitar store, Rawesome looks from the outside like a forgotten storage unit. A tiny club sign hangs on the 10-foot-tall corrugated fence that hides the windowless storefront.
But inside, the shop is bright and airy, a bohemian farmers market surrounded by burnt-orange walls and a white tarp roof to keep out the rain. Boxes of coconuts and ginger from Hawaii sit nestled next to crates of California squash. Labels identify where each bite of produce was grown: onions from the Viva Tierra farm in Harlingen, Texas, and King’s Crown Organic farm in King Hill, Idaho.
The members — a mix of tattooed young people and middle-aged executives in Italian shoes — chat as they head to the walk-in cooler in the back. It is jam-packed with meat and dairy. Ziploc bags are filled with chicken, beef and pork. Many don’t have an expiration date. The other side is stocked with Amish buttermilk ($7.95 a quart), Amish cream cheese ($12.75 a pound) and whole milk ($8.59 per half-gallon).
Agencies that participated in the raid on Rawesome included the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Investigators confiscated the club’s computer and 17 coolers packed with, among other things, 24 bottles of organic honey, 10 gallons of raw whole milk and two bottles of raw cane syrup. Stewart said the health department slapped a closure notice on the club’s front door that said it was “operating a food facility without a valid public health permit.”
The health department, district attorney’s office and the FDA declined to comment, citing the pending investigation. The state Department of Food and Agriculture, which was the agency of record on the search warrant, said it continues to work with the district attorney’s office.
Co-op members are undeterred. Four days after the raid, Rawesome reopened its doors. The shelves were restocked. They have remained so ever since.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the line stretched halfway down the block. A stern young man in baggy cargo pants and sunglasses guarded the entrance, checking drivers’ licenses. Lela Buttery, a Rawesome volunteer and professional biologist, handed out legal waivers to sign.
One woman, digging into her green grocery bag for a pen, asked, “You guys got shut down last week?”
“Yes,” Buttery said.
“That’s nuts,” the woman replied. “You’re not going to stop, right?”
Buttery grinned. “Can I see your membership card?
My hat is off to the Rawsome folks! I love to see this kind of reaction to the boot jack tactics of government! Peaceful resistance. Support your local farmers and raw milk producers.
Why isn’t Raw Milk a legal option in all places? It isn’t because it is dangerous, the stats show otherwise. So we have a government agency trying to stamp out healthy competition, pun intended. At least that is the way I read this.
If you have GMO, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, bring it on-all A OK. But if it is natural or organic watch out, there is some agency that will try to control you, permit you, regulate you and/or eliminate you!
Want raw milk? Lease a farm—and hire a lawyer 18
by David Gumpert
22 Jul 2010 4:00 AM
Raw milkFor two months earlier this year, Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger let the proposed contract sit unsigned on his desk.
The agreement specified that a nonprofit organization known as Right to Choose Healthy Food, and headed by raw food advocate Aajonus Vonderplanitz, would lease his farm’s 50 cows and dozens of chickens — “the works,” says Hershberger. In exchange, the organization would have access to all the food from the animals: milk, eggs, and meat.
Then, on June 2, agents from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection raided his Grazin’ Acres farm near Madison, and placed seals on the refrigerators in his small store. He was operating without a retailer license and a dairy license, the regulators said. The fact that he wasn’t open to the general public, but was selling direct to “members” of his farm, didn’t matter.
The day after the raid, Hershberger cut the DATCP seals and defiantly re-opened for business. His confidence was buttressed by the fact that he decided that day to sign the contract with Right to Choose Healthy Food.
The deal is “simple,” says Hershberger, and besides, “I think Aajonus knows what he’s doing.”
The wizard of raws
Vonderplanitz followed up by sending a letter to Wisconsin’s DATCP explaining that Hershberger
… is not engaged in commerce. His farm animals are leased to Right To Choose Healthy Food’s Grazin’ Acres Farm Coop Club who owns them. Vernon Hershberger is the boarder, caretaker, milker, packager, and deliverer of our animals’ products. Since the private club owns dairy, egg, and meat production, there is no commerce involved. Since no commerce of buying or selling raw milk and our other products to the public is involved, or distributed in public places, government agencies have NO JURISDICTION over the production, labeling and use of the club’s products consumed by its members, nor is any permit required … It is shameful for (DATCP) to try to prevent us from producing and distributing our health-giving raw milk and other farm products to our members by threatening and imposing false warrants, seizures, and arrests of our property. Since you were duly warned that this was a private club and you had no jurisdiction over it, your actions were criminal stealing, kidnap, and trespass.
Though DATCP agents have since been back to his farm twice more with search warrants, the last time taking Hershberger’s computer, checkbook, and other records, there has been no sign of any criminal or other charges being filed against the farmer.
If the experiences of other farmers like Hershberger are any indication, there’s a good chance no charges will come. Over the last eight years, Vonderplanitz has put together lease agreements giving Right to Choose Healthy Food, and its hundreds of consumer members around the country, the rights to the land and produce of about 40 small farms.
While there have been a number of raids, especially in recent months, as I described previously for Grist, there have yet to be any legal challenges brought against the lease arrangements, he says. “If they had jurisdiction, they would have busted us a long time ago,” he told me.
Not only is Vonderplanitz not afraid of a legal challenge, he welcomes one. “I hope they file charges against us,” he says. While the distribution centers in major urban areas, like the one raided in Venice, must comply with fire codes and zoning regulations, they need not comply with food licensing or labeling laws required of foods sold to the public, he argues. Nor must they comply with the federal prohibition on interstate sales of raw milk. There can’t be such a prohibition for member leaseholders, he maintains, since they own the farm products when they are produced.
“If you take your property from Pennsylvania to California, there is no federal jurisdiction,” he says. Vonderplanitz likens the farm lease agreements to automobile leases. “In lease agreements, you have total ownership of the contract and responsibility for the items leased. If you wreck a leased car, you are totally responsible.”
The analogy is important, he says, since lease-related law has a 75-year history of recognition by our legal system. “Herdshare” and “cowshare” agreements, used in many states to give raw-milk drinkers shares in cows and goats, are less legally secure, he says. He likens the rights of a herdshare owner to those of an owner of stock in a major corporation, where shareholders have certain financial rights, but don’t necessarily have right to the corporation’s products, or responsibility for the products. (Though herdshare rights were upheld by an Ohio court in 2006, and the state didn’t appeal the case.)
Vonderplanitz maintains that the lease agreements aren’t just devices to enable foodies to avoid complying with food licensing rules and the federal interstate raw milk prohibition, and has successfully persuaded farmers who’ve considered backing out of the agreements to stand firm.
In a case last winter, a Midwest farmer in the midst of a two-year lease agreement with Right to Choose considered shutting down his raw milk production after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sought to enforce warning letters maintaining the farmer was violating the federal prohibition on raw-milk sales across state lines. Vonderplanitz says he told the farmer that his group would enforce its lease agreement by taking over the farm and cows to continue producing milk for members. The farmer, encouraged by Vonderplanitz’s commitment, decided to fire his lawyers, who’d encouraged him to accept the FDA mandate, and continue with the Vonderplanitz organization. Vonderplanitz says he notified the FDA, much the same as he did Wisconsin DATCP in the Hershberger case, that the farm was under a lease agreement, and says the farm continues to provide his members with raw milk.
Another farmer who signed on with RTCHF was Daniel Allgyer. He made his decision shortly after agents from the FDA showed up at his Pennsylvania farm last April with a search warrant and a letter alleging he was involved in interstate sale of raw milk. Allgyer continues to supply RTCHF with milk.
Vonderplanitz sees himself as having “rescued” these and other farmers from possibly being thrown out of business by FDA and state agriculture authority actions against private food organizations. “They have left all the people alone since I notified the authorities.”
The raid on the RTCHF warehouse in Venice, Calif., three weeks ago, along with that on Sharon Palmer’s farm in nearby Ventura County, whose goats are under lease to RTCHF, represent payback in Vanderplanitz’s view.
“They are looking for any way they can to break us,” he says. “They’re not going to get away from it.”
He says a number of prominent Los Angeles lawyers have offered legal services, and RTCHF plans to sue the government agencies involved in the raids against Rawesome and Sharon Palmer’s farm for $1 million apiece, for false arrest.
It’s hard to know what the government agencies will do. While they have clearly shied away thus far from a legal confrontation over the leasing matter, the various searches suggest officials are seriously considering legal action, such as charges of violating the ban on interstate sale of raw milk. Or else they could continue their harassment actions in hopes of intimidating consumers and farmers, and scaring them away from the increasingly popular leasing arrangement.
Even without government legal action against RTCHF, there is the pending suit against the FDA by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund challenging the federal prohibition on interstate commerce of raw milk.
Clearly, we are moving closer to judicial consideration of how far consumer rights extend when it comes to consumers opting out of the factory food system and arranging for private access to the nutritionally-dense foods of their choice.
These are the sort of tactics that we as a People must stand up to. Support Farm to Consumer legal fund.
Finally, FDA states its true position on food! Read this and weep. They are truly and now self admitted dictators of what food is available for you to consume!
WE THE PEOPLE are just way to stupid to make reasonable decisions ourselves when it comes to the food we put into our own mouths. I really didn’t expect anything different and don’t know why I am acting so surprised. This agency and others just like it are the bosses of all of us, as my small children would say, and this is not constitutional. Congress can enact laws not agencies.
The Food Rights Firestorm Spreads: Is Big Dairy Helping Regulators Use MA As Test to Bust Raw Milk Buying Clubs?
DateFriday, April 30, 2010 at 10:12AM
The Boston Tea PartyI’d like to personally thank the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for articulating its food-rights policy. I know, I don’t usually have nice things to say about the FDA, but I’m feeling appreciative because the agency has made it so much easier to explain the food-rights struggle to large numbers of people. Just to re-cap, the agency’s position, as articulated in its response to the suit filed by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (described in my previous post), is three-fold:
–There’s no absolute right to any raw unprocessed food, unless the FDA says it’s okay;
–There’s no right to good health, except as approved by the FDA.
–There’s no right for citizens to contract privately for their food.
More Americans appear to be getting the message. The outcry in California against SB 201 in 2008 was a first sign. Then, of course, the people’s will was thwarted by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto. Over the past six months, we’ve had the popular push in Wisconsin, a state where the regulators have gone bonkers to eliminate raw milk, to pressure legislators to approve making it available from the farm; the proposed law now sits on the desk of a governor who has indicated he hears the consumer outrage (but is certainly subject to the not-so-gentle whispers from Big Dairy and the FDA).
And now, just within the last few weeks, we see a firestorm building in Massachusetts over a seemingly small but arbitrary decision by a regulator to restrict consumer access to milk. Unlike Wisconsin, which never officially sanctioned raw milk sales, Massachusetts has long allowed sales from dairy farms, and delivery to consumers by any of a half dozen or more buying clubs.
Everything was working fine in Massachusetts—more dairy farmers producing ever more raw milk and in the process creating a revival for the state’s moribund dairy industry. No hint of illnesses in over a decade.
The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture seemed to be doing its job of supporting state agriculture by encouraging raw-milk-producing dairy farmers rather than fighting them, like the regulators in neighboring New York state. Late last year, MDAR publicly supported dairy farmer Doug Stephans in his fight with state and local public health authorities and helped him gain approval to sell raw milk from his Framingham, MA, dairy.
But then something happened early this year to change MDAR’s approach. The agency sent cease-and-desist letters to four buying clubs that had been quietly and efficiently delivering raw milk to consumers who didn’t want to burn the gasoline or were unable because they don’t have cars or even are disabled, to travel the hour or two hours to dairy farms in central Massachusetts and pick up their milk. (The buying clubs essentially enter into contracts with individual consumers to pick up and deliver their milk.) The letters weren’t well received by the owners of the buying clubs, and they began mobilizing support from their customers and legislators to challenge MDAR. They argued that Massachusetts laws and regulations don’t specifically prohibit the buying clubs, making the cease-and-desist letters so much paper.
MDAR seems to have agreed, because two weeks ago it proposed a new regulation to prohibit the buying clubs. The regulation would make Massachusetts the first state in the country to explicitly ban raw milk buying clubs.
In advance of a hearing May 10 on the proposed regulation, a Massachusetts legislator friendly with the MDAR commissioner, Scott Soares, set up a meeting last Monday for the regulator to discuss with a few consumers his reasons for going after the buying clubs.
Surprise–15 consumers and farmers showed up for the meeting, and started peppering the startled Soares with questions about why he was taking an action that will inevitably reduce consumers’ access to raw milk, and quite possibly put at least a few of the more than twenty dairy farms selling raw milk out of business.
These 15 consumers weren’t just a few people off the street. They included some prominent local citizens who know how the system works—a local lawyer, a public health professional, the head of a nonprofit organization, and a high-ranking federal regulator. The latter, Hugh Kaufman, was Chief Investigator with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ombudsman Office, among other high-level positions over a forty-year period.
Kaufman put Soares on the spot during the Monday meeting when Soares said at one point that there was as much passion from anti-raw-milk people as from pro-raw-milk people. Who were these anti-raw-milk people, Kaufman inquired.
“He said that large dairy producers had communicated to him,” recalls Kaufman. “I asked him who they were. He said he couldn’t tell me.”
But Kaufman says Soares talked about concerns the dairy representatives have “that if something goes wrong with raw milk, it will hurt all the dairies.” (This is a familiar refrain by the conventional dairy industry that has no basis, since public health and health regulators are quick in any suspected illness from raw milk to alert consumers, in shrill terms, to the distinction between raw and pasteurized milk.)
That led Kaufman to inquire whether Soares had written any of this down. Soares said he hadn’t.
Kaufman maintains that when government officials have conversations with industry representatives while new regulations are being considered, the officials are supposed to open a docket—make a written record of what happened and when.
I should say at this point that four other people who were at the meeting with Soares have confirmed Kaufman’s account of what occurred. Moreover, I tried via phone and email to obtain comment from Soares. His publicity official emailed me Thursday asking what I wanted to inquire about. I wrote her back that I wanted his version about what was said at the Monday meeting about his contacts with dairy officials. I didn’t receive a response.
Kaufman thinks he understands the problem: “Soares couldn’t handle 15 knowledgeable people. In the process, he opened up a pandora’s box. Now his legal problem is that he is hiding from the public the names of the large business entities, that he is meeting with, who are pushing him to restrain trade. As well as hiding from the general public, the fact that he’s being pushed by these business entities in the first place. Not making a public record of these ex-parte discussions with the big dairies lobbying him to harm their competitors, during an Official Government Rulemaking, is NOT legit.”
I’ll add to Kaufman’s impressions. We know that the FDA and Midwest agriculture officials have targeted raw milk buying clubs—the case of Wisconsin buying club owner Max Kane and the pressure to force him to testify about where he obtains his milk and who his customers are is a direct result of the official crackdown.
What MDAR’s Soares seems to be saying is that the dairy industry is part and parcel of the campaign to hamper raw milk distribution by cracking down on buying clubs.
And now we have the official FDA policy to not only limit access to natural foods it deems dangerous, but to oppose private contracts (such as via buying clubs).
At least it’s all out in the open. Now it’s up to consumers to let the regulators and politicians know how they feel about this joint government-industry enforcement campaign to deprive citizens of health-giving foods of their choice. The next big opportunity comes May 10, at 10 am at 100 Cambridge St, Conference Room A, 2nd Floor in Boston, Mass. Come one, come all. It’s all within shouting distance of where the real Boston Tea Party took place.
So if anyone ever hears of a public meeting on increased regulation over our food supply, be it milk or lettuce, I would strongly suggest that you get organized and get down there and be vocal.
This story is all over the web, at least the parts i pay any attention to! Raw milk is once again being portrayed as ‘bad’ and anyone caught selling it will go to jail!
Big brother is alive and well…much to our collective dismay. Folks this kind of strong arm tactics has to stop and stop now!
WND Exclusive UDDERLY RIDICULOUS
Feds invade farm for 5 a.m. inspection
Serve warrant on farmer up to milk cows
Posted: April 22, 2010
10:55 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily
Federal agents invaded an Amish farm in Pennsylvania at 5 a.m. to inspect cow-milking facilities then followed up the next day with a written notice that the farmer was engaged in interstate sale of raw milk in violation of the Public Health Services Act.
A failure to correct the situation could result in “seizure and/or injunction,” the warning letter from Kirk Sooter, district director of the Philadelphia office of the Department of Health and Human Services, told farmer Dan Allgyer of Kinzers, Pa., on Wednesday.
The farm invaded Tuesday is the one agents visited in February, driving past “Private Property” signs to demand Allgyer open his property for their inspection, saying, “You have cows. You produce food for human consumption.”
The case is being publicized by the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which promotes traditional methods of linking farmers with consumers.
Spokeswoman Deborah Stockton told WND Allgyer “is the type of farmer who exemplifies what we are trying to restore.” On her organization’s website is the commitment “to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.”
She reported she got details directly from Allgyer of Tuesday’s early morning inspection, which highlights the growing conflict between farmers who want to provide health food locally and federal regulators.
Allgyer could not be reached immediately for comment.
The farmer told NICFA he came out of his house about 4:30 a.m. for his milking routine and noticed a lot of traffic on Kinzer Road.
Shortly later, the cars were coming up his lane.
“I stood back in the dark barn to see what they were going to do. They drove past my two ‘Private Property’ signs, up to where my coolers were, with their headlights shining right on them,” Allgyer reported.
He called to the five men as they were preparing to knock on his home, where his wife and family remained asleep.
“Two were from the FDA, agent Joshua C. Schafer who had been there in February and another. They showed me identification, but I was too flustered to ask for their cards. I remember being told that two were deputy U.S. marshals and one a state trooper. They started asking me questions right away. They handed me a paper, and I didn’t realize what it was,” he said.
“Schafer told me they were there to do a ‘routine inspection.’ At 5:00 in the morning, I wondered to myself? ‘Do you have a warrant?’ I asked, and one of them, a marshal or the state policeman, said, ‘You’ve got in your hand buddy.’ I asked, ‘What is the warrant about?’ Schafer responded, ‘We have credible evidence that you are involved in interstate commerce,’” the farmer reported.
WND telephone calls and e-mails to the FDA requesting comment did not generate a response.
Allgyer said he confirmed his identification but then said he wouldn’t answer anything further.
He said he questioned their arrival at his farm at 5 a.m. when the warrant clearly stated it was valid during “reasonable times during ordinary business hours,” but one of the agents said “ordinary business hours for agriculture start at 5 a.m.”
The agents spent their time “rooting around, like a couple of pigs, in the freezer and cooler area and took many pictures,” Allgyer reported.
“They came in the dark, shining bright flashlights while my family was asleep, keeping me from milking my cows, from my family, from breakfast with my family and from our morning devotions, and alarming my children enough so that the first question they asked my wife was, ‘Is Daddy going to jail?’” Allgyer said.
The subsequent warning letter was an all-inclusive notice that federal regulations prohibit “the delivery into interstate commerce of milk and milk products in final package form for direct human consumption unless they have been pasteurized.”
“It is your responsibility to ensure adherence with all requirements. … Failure to make prompt corrections could result in regulatory action without further notice,” the letter said.
The letter directed Allgyer to notify Compliance Officer Richard Cherry of the corrections.
Stockton warned the requirement now is for federal agents to claim they have “credible evidence” regarding a case, but a proposed federal change would strike those words in the law and replace them with “reason to believe.”
“The phrase ‘reason to believe’ would be inserted 14 times into the code with S 510,” she said. “If this bill goes through, the FDA will have control of farms. They will not need ‘credible evidence’ to act. They will essentially be given a free hand to act as they want. And look at how they already act, even with the existing constraints in place.”
Allgyer previously had told the officers that as a private farmer, he does not sell to the public.
Advocates say raw milk is healthier.
According to natural-foods blogger Kimberly Hartke, Kevin Trudeau touts raw milk in his New York Times best-seller “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About,” and Sally Fallon Morell’s cookbook, “Nourishing Traditions,” which has sold 350,000 copies.
On a forum page at Chronwatch-America.com, a participant concluded, “The food produced on that farm is probably far safer than anything you get at the grocery store.”
That opinion was endorsed on the Food Freedom blog, where one participant wrote, “”Factory foods are the ones making people sick & getting recalled.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation, which is among the nonprofits that educate consumers about more natural food-production methods, said demand for such products is growing.
“Raw milk … is a supremely healthy food that should be available to those who want it,” said Morell, the foundation’s president.
In January, Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt won a court victory when he was found not guilty of selling raw milk to members of a cow-sharing consortium.
In a previous U.S. case, Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt of Maryland had his farm raided by SWAT-type agents. He was fined more than $4,000 and had his equipment confiscated for providing unpasteurized milk to participants in his program.
Call you Senator or Representative, dismantle the FDA-at least the way it currently operates as the lap dog of the very industries they are supposed to regulate. Appears to me the only thing they are regulating is competition….
N.Y. Dairy Farmer Kills 51 Cows, Commits Suicide
COPAKE, N.Y. — State police in New York say an upstate dairy farmer shot and killed 51 of his milk cows in his barn before turning the rifle on himself.
State police found the body of 59-year-old Dean Pierson in his Copake barn on Thursday. A visitor found a note Pierson had left on the barn door that said not to come in and to call police.
State police would only say that Pierson was having personal issues.
The Columbia County hamlet of Copake is about 115 miles north of New York City.
Local farmers buried the cows outside the barn Friday. They would not discuss Pierson or what had happened, but one of the men said these are hard times to be a farmer.
We can hope that this country wakes up before it is too late. The pain of the current economic structure will continue to cause consequences that We the People are unprepared to handle.
Tune in to www.naturalanswersradio.com as we speak with Mark McAfee, CEO, Managing Member, Founder of Organic Pastures Dairy, Mark is internationally recognized as an expert in raw milk production, and has spoken in over fifteen states and three countries on the subject. He invented the first -dietary supplements- made from fresh raw colostrum, and secured their certification from the FDA and DHS. Mark created and published the first international raw milk safety standards at www.rawusa.org. In addition, he has worked for sixteen years as an EMS paramedic, and served as marketing director and operations manager for a $30 million dollar EMS company. He is pre-med trained, and is an experienced medical educator. Mark is a licensed private pilot.
This promises to be an important discussion on the new food safety bill, raw milk scandal in D.C. and much more! Tune in live from 11am to 1pm CST or catch the archives at www.americanfreedomradio.com