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
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.