A CA Raw-Milk Legislative Compromise in the Works; NY to Hold Hearing on Meadowsweet Dairy LLC After Compromise Offer Falls Through

Next week should provide interesting bi-coastal legislative and regulatory action for raw milk advocates.


On the West Coast, so-called “emergency legislation” is being drawn up that would change or eliminate the 10-coliform-per-milliliter standard passed last October. It could be changed to a higher number–say, a 50-coliform-per-milliliter standard–reports Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. Negotiations are currently under way to get the governor on board, following assurances from legislative leaders that an elimination of AB 1735, or a compromise, would easily pass both houses.


A hearing session on the legislation is tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday, Jan. 16, at noon. in Sacramento. Mark says supporters should feel free to show up, wear their raw milk t-shirts, and offer to testify in support of the legislation…and be on "best behavior." 


As if to underscore that this legislative push is not a done deal, veteran raw milk advocate Aajonus Vonderplanitz tonight sent out an email saying that the California Department of Food and Agriculture "is now testing with the new standards set

by AB1735 and plans to enforce them beginning immediately." He added that he expects to file his previously announced lawsuit sometime in the next few days. To complete preparation of the suit, he is seeking plaintiffs who illustrate certain categories, such as an individual told by his/her doctor to drink raw milk, or an individual for whom raw milk satisfies important religious principles. Aajonus can be contacted at optimal@earthlink.net.


On the East Coast, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets will hold a hearing next Thursday to determine if raw milk products produced by the Meadowsweet Dairy LLC for its 121 shareholders should be destroyed. The LLC provides shareholders with raw milk, yogurt, buttermilk, and other products. The state refuses to recognize the LLC’s claim that the shareholders are outside the jurisdiction of the agriculture agency, and insists Meadowsweet needs a raw milk permit to operate; such a permit wouldn’t cover production of raw-milk yogurt, buttermilk, and cream.


Gary Cox, the lawyer for the limited liability company, had filed written arguments asking that the regulatory hearing be put off until after a court hearing scheduled for January 22 on a request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the agriculture regulators from interfering with the LLC’s operations. Inspectors have appeared numerous times over the last few months seeking to photograph and inventory the dairy’s products, and the Smiths have turned them away, once with help from a sheriff’s deputy.


Gary argued that the court’s decision could render next week’s scheduled hearing moot if the preliminary injunction is granted.


Earlier today, negotiations on delaying the regulatory hearing until next month fell through when Barbara and Steve Smith refused an offer from the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets to allow inspection of their products and facilities, in exchange for the delay.


So the hearing is on for 11 a.m. next Thursday at 10B Airline Dr. in Albany, and the session is open to the public.  


I think it’s safe to say that both these situations are highly fluid. California is, well, California. And state agriculture officials aren’t the most flexible bunch of people.  

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12 Comments on "A CA Raw-Milk Legislative Compromise in the Works; NY to Hold Hearing on Meadowsweet Dairy LLC After Compromise Offer Falls Through"

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Gary Cox
January 11, 2008 11:12 am


in addition, the administrative hearing next week will determine whether the smiths will be ordered to cease their conduct and whether the commissioner will order the imposition of fines and penalties. this is far from over.

i also wanted to say how touched i am by the support i have received from new york farmers, offering to watch my two kids while i attend the hearing. thank you all very much.

Lori McGrath
January 11, 2008 11:39 am

You’re welcome. The offer is open anytime for any reason. For obvious reasons, I don’t post here often but we are regular readers and are glad to see you here too.
Best of luck next week, maybe we’ll see you there.

January 11, 2008 1:33 pm

Please note that those interested in Aajonus’ suit can read the whole email and sign up to help at http://www.SaveRawMilk.org. Thanks for doing such a great job of covering these issues!

– AuLait at SRM

Robin Anderson
January 11, 2008 3:33 pm

I have received these same e-mails as you David. I am confused as to why Aajonus and Mark don’t put their money together and maybe have both attorneys work side by side (two heads are better than one). I know there are disagreements and one is totally opposed to believing anything the govt says, while the other is working with the govt, it still seems that they are battling each other when they should be united.
I did read that Aajonus was one of the initial investors, am I correct? I know he made a comment about never being… Read more »

January 11, 2008 11:44 pm


There are many advantages to decentralized approaches to problems. Putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t always wise. Multiple fronts by multiple individuals also helps distract and confuse opponents.

Steve Bemis
January 12, 2008 12:02 am

I would think, given his foreign-born background and body-building expertise, that the Guv’s opposition to something he logically should be in favor of personally, is either 1) political, if indeed it is substantive or 2) not a belief which he actually holds (either politically or personally), but rather mis-informed by the bad information he receives as a top executive, who is in many ways at the mercy of those who feed him information and positions. If these advisors get it wrong, which apparently is what happened at many points along the way starting in the bowels of the… Read more »

don neeper
January 12, 2008 1:10 am

This is off the current topic, but an article just appeared in the The Daily Green suggesting that the recent deaths due to Listeria in pasteurized milk from Whittier Farms in Massachusetts may be due to a new heat-resistant form of the bacteria. This is a possibility that I’ve suggested in the past, and would be a logical outcome to the nearly one hundred years of pasteurization – artificially removing heat-intolerant bacteria opens up a biological niche for heat-tolerant bacteria and encourages their evolution. This has been suggested by Mark McAfee as one of the reasons that UHT ("ultra-pasteurized")… Read more »

Dave Milano
January 12, 2008 4:34 am

Steve Bemis surmises that Californias governor may be in many ways at the mercy of those who feed him information and thus in unable to make a truly informed decision about raw milk law. That is undoubtedly true, and it makes me shudder.

Humans will never be free of bad information, intentional or not. We can generally live with that, but when our centralized control systems (government, business, and government-business hybrids) get hold of it, watch out!

Robin Anderson
January 12, 2008 8:42 am

I understand Pete, it just seems like they are also battling each other though, at the same time. I hope whatever the strategy is, that it works.

Bob Hayles
January 12, 2008 8:58 am

A question for pete, steve, or gary…I know it really depends on which state is involved, but in general can a suit be filed claiming denial of rights, small personal injury, or any other of a number of claims related to our being able to have raw milk, in small claims court, and, if so, I’m fantasizing about hundreds or thousands of folks in each state filing individual suits against the regulatory agencies that would continue to deny us the right to make our own food choices. Just think…each and every raw milk unfriendly state having to defend… Read more »

Steve Bemis
January 12, 2008 11:27 am

Bob, suing the government is not a particularly easy thing to do, especially for individuals not familiar with courts. What the current California case, and (in my direct experience) the Michigan case for Richard Hebron say, is that coordinated and consistent public pressure can get results. The ultimate "fix" for all of this is to get the laws changed, and focussing effort on the politicians is thus important work. Even with agencies, consistent public pressure simply does work, especially where the agency is caught over-reaching its authority. Exerting this kind of pressure is a lot… Read more »

Bob Hayles
January 12, 2008 11:47 pm

Steve, I’m not talking about well prepared for suits, or even suits that have a chance of winning on the merits. That’s why I’m wondering about small claims court suits…suits that can be filed inexpensively, by individuals withour having to pay counsel. I’m talking about a partial strategy in the war of inflicting on the authorities the "death by a thousand cuts", without regard for the merits of the individual suits. Flood the system…overload it…and make sure the media knows. Every state, ten suits a day, every day, and the cohesive bottom line reason given… Read more »