A July 4 Message About Rights: Its Easy to Talk About Freedom, Making Things Happen Is More Difficult

Why do I have this uneasy feeling of being a participant in “Survivor”, and that I’m about to be voted off the island?

Seriously, it’s curious how a discussion about raw milk research priorities turns into a rap about freedom and rights. I think everyone knows I view the raw milk “problem” as a rights issue. Indeed, the subtitle of my upcoming book (The Raw Milk Revolution) is “Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights.”

But there’s a dynamic that occurs among supporters of raw milk when the discussion begins to question certain long-held assumptions. They drop the subject of the original discussion (in this case, the real significance of the Pottenger data in supporting raw milk’s nutritional benefits, and exploring other more persuasive data), and they talk about “rights,” as in, “Screw this business about sacred cows, I’m not giving an inch on Pottenger and, well, uh, this isn’t about Pottenger anyway, this is about freedom and rights. So there!”

That’s what Hugh Betcha does, and that’s what milk farmer and Don Wittlinger and Dave Milano do.

Well, I’ll give it to your straight. That approach is the equivalent of regulators who, when confronted with the argument that there are a miniscule number of illnesses from raw milk in this country and there’s no real danger, respond by saying, “Okay, that may be so, but what about the children? Who is protecting them?”

In other words, both arguments are cop-outs. They’re an excuse to simply not talk. And that’s what we have, no communication. The regulators may have started it, and may be the most intransigent. Unfortunately, the regulators have the power, as well as the support of the judges and legislators. You guys can stomp away and say you’ll go out in a blaze of glory defending your rights, but know what? The regulators know it’s a bunch of hot air, all talk. (Ironically, Lykke seems to be a government official of some type, who could very easily be fired if her/his real identity were known. Believe me, they fire such people in a heartbeat for engaging in such discussion. Lykke takes a risk posting on this blog, a bigger risk than I and most others on this blog take in defending rights.)

I’ve raised all kinds of objections when dairy farmers have been set upon by regulators. I’ve even called for civil disobedience. Some of you may remember the case of Greg Niewendorp, the Michigan farmer (since moved to Virginia) who refused to have his cattle tested for bovin tuberculosis. He sought out others to do the same, but when push came to shove, no one was there. I appreciate that in a down economy, it’s tough for others to put themselves on the line. Heck, it’s tough for certain especially vociferous readers here to even use their real names to ring the freedom bell, so what chance is there that they’ll go out on a limb via civil disobedience or other forms of real-life support?

I’ve sat in on court hearings involving dairy farmers whose rights have been violated via entrapment and illegal search warrants, and I can tell you, most judges don’t care. They just don’t care. Our constitution is nearly meaningless to them. They support the regulators, come hell or high water.

Given those realities, we have to go around the regulators (and legislators and judges). Educate consumers about the benefits of raw milk, and let them drive the market ever higher. Encourage more dairy farmers to explore raw milk. (Sorry, milk farmer, I’m not telling all feedlot dairies to get into the raw milk business, just encouraging a few serious-minded ones to explore making the transition to pasture-based dairy. Maybe where you live, economics aren’t important, and you can afford to just go your merry way, but in most of the rest of the country, economies are terrible and dairy farmers in particular, are going out of business in growing numbers. Transitioning some conventional dairies into raw dairies is a workable approach, and one that drives TPTB crazy.)

Small research studies that reaffirm raw milk’s safety, nutritional benefits, and economic benefits are an important way to educate people, and go around the regulators. Unfortunately, the Pottenger data isn’t especially useful or compelling in educating the masses, as much as a few devotees may love it. Criticizing it need not be any more threatening than admitting that people do occasionally become ill from raw milk, just as they become ill from spinach, ground beef, and cookie dough. Guess I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult it is to let go of sacred cows.

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19 Comments on "A July 4 Message About Rights: Its Easy to Talk About Freedom, Making Things Happen Is More Difficult"

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July 4, 2009 2:52 am


I don’t worry about doing research that will convince people that raw milk can be safe or even beneficial.Everyone seems to be aware that conventionally produced food is going to kill you if not immediately then over a few decades.I think they are aware that preservatives are bad for their health and that processed food is lacking the vitamins we need to be healthy.This alone will drive people to try foods that are free of preservatives and fresh.

I do worry that even small scale farmers and the people who support them,believe that the state and federal government have the unlimited authority to regulate trade at all levels.
"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"


"The egregious Supreme Court decision in the case Wickard v. Filburn (1942) effectively stripped individual citizens of any right that the federal government might choose to take from them."

" Filburn argued that since the excess wheat he produced was intended solely for home consumption it could not be regulated through the interstate Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, reasoning that if Filburn had not used home-grown wheat he would have had to buy wheat on the open market. This effect on interstate commerce, the Court reasoned, may not be substantial from the actions of Filburn alone but through the cumulative actions of thousands of other farmers just like Filburn its effect would certainly become substantial. Therefore Congress could regulate wholly intrastate, non-commercial activity if such activity, viewed in the aggregate, would have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, even if the individual effects are trivial. (emphasis mine)

Reflect on the two highlighted sentences for a moment. If everyone grew their own tomatoes in their garden, the cumulative effect would lower the commercial price of tomatoes across the United States. By this reasoning, Congress would have the authority to forbid families from growing tomatoes in their backyards. If everyone heated with a wood stove, and cut trees on their own property for fuel, the cumulative effect would lower the commercial price of energy across the United States. Then Congress would have the authority to forbid families from cutting wood to heat their own homes. Put more abstractly, in principle at least, Congress has the authority to forbid people from taking care of themselves, providing their own food and shelter, without being enmeshed in the public grid of commerce. In essence, Congress has the clout to mandate that we are all wards of the state, and what freedoms we do still have, we have at their pleasure."

"And that, dear readers, is how Big Brother came into the United States. There is recourse, but it would take extraordinary coordination and resolve. And that would be to throw all the bums out and elect a slate of libertarians to the presidency and to Congress, and then to roll back much of the offensive legislation. Now 200 years ago that might have seemed like a perfectly normal idea. But the liberal brainwashing by our public schools and our mainstream media has been going on so long, that what once might have seemed like a normal plan is now viewed as right-wing extremism."

What we really need to do is to make people aware that the federal government assumes that it has the authority to regulate how we get the food we eat.This is what we need to change.This massive power grab by the federal government is obviously not what the framers of the constitution would have allowed in their interpretation of the commerce clause.

Steve Bemis
July 4, 2009 3:42 am

I have the feeling that this blog, and others like it, are harbingers of the future. The present is the problem. Whether it is a failed environmental response to pollution or a failed agricultural response to the pesky problem of feeding humanity – which are different manifestations of the same problem – the common denominator is a corporate system with its handmaiden regulators (largely owned and controlled by the corporate interests). So long as we have corporations with the "rights" of human individuals which control the government, we are locked in a system which is really, really stacked against human individuals. This is America, the land of the free corporations, in the 21st century. If one "gets" this reality, one has only a visceral response to notions of compromising and working with or in this system. It’s a failed system. Something more dispersed and more organic has to replace it, and I think the discussions on this blog reflect the cutting edge of this new reality.

I’m not against science, and I believe that responsible farmers want to and do produce healthy raw milk. I believe there is even a place for responsible, careful analysis of problems (the Colorado dairy situation from a couple of months ago being a shining example of this process). However, the US Congress is not the place to solve anything small-scale. It’s a great place to solve problems which are large-scale like the PCA debacle. Locally produced food (raw milk or otherwise) is not the problem, but rather the solution, and should be exempted across-the-board from such regulation. Now that would be a freedom worth setting off a couple of firecrackers for.

Happy 2nd birthday to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (www.ftcldf.org).

Dave Milano
July 4, 2009 4:55 am

It was certainly not my intention to jack up a spitting match. Please understand that my comments are intended to be about ideas and not about individuals.

The Complete Patient
July 4, 2009 5:19 am

I definitely understand that, and I apologize if I personalized my argument more than was appropriate. I, for one, very much value your ideas, as I think many others here do as well.


Mark McAfee
July 4, 2009 6:12 am

Hey Team Raw Milk,

I have come to realize that the blogosphere is really the B-S-osphere and is not really the realityosphere.

While all this talk is going on…. real work is being done and progress is being made. People are working very hard at farmers markets, meetings are being held and research is being funded at major universities….all about raw milk.

Economics will change these dynamics. Education will follow and true change will happen. All because the human spirit contains a gene that "wants us to live and thrive". Our current state of nutritional affairs is killing us. When people wake up from the shock of a diagnosis and starting living in pain with no good answers coming from doctors…..they will seek the truth. It is in our genes.

Google will save those that want to live. So lets get to work….then blog about our work later. Dr. Weston A. Prices last words were"….you teach…you teach you teach".

Those are the timeless marching orders. Go teach someone and brag about that expericne here.


Sylvia Gibson
July 4, 2009 7:02 am

Studies keep people asking questions. A good researcher will continuelly ask questions and seek out the answers. As a good researcher will also defend thier research.

People are waking up. Change is usually a slow process. When enough are ill, they will seek change. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. (Don’t recall who said that).

People did "illegal" things to help/free slaves, they did it under great risks long before the general population realized what was going on. People tend to be very passionate about thier beliefs. Food is a neccessity, if you don’t have it you die. If you take food away or force people to eat "soilent green" garbage, they will revolt at some point. Yes, the ones who speak out or run underground in the early stages will be silenced. It won’t stop people from obtaining what they believe they require for survival.

Miguel, your post is disturbing, I had not known that.

"Cop-out" David? No, not for me. It has always been about freedom of choice. If they take something as simple as choosing what I eat away, what will be next? Raw milk is no more dangerous than any other food that has been contaminated from poor sanitation. I, as I know others also, believe it is healthier than the boiled milk. People wish to feed themselves and thier kids processed foods, that is thier choice. I believe that is poison.

Don Wittlinger
July 4, 2009 7:16 am

Fresno Dairy Can’t Escape "Milk Pool"
Hey Mark this article is a bit unclear for this reader on the east coast perhaps you could elaborate. It sounds like you OPDC are forced into a milk pricing system thus not a free market but actually subjected to price controls by others?

Mark McAfee
July 4, 2009 10:03 am


Let me explain the SB 362 and the CA Milk Pool issue.

Senator Dean Florez held investigatory hearings earlier this year after CA dairymen started committing suicide from sustained low milk pricing. During those hearings dairymen were invited to come and suggest ideas about how the CA dairy industry and or the Milk Pool could be changed or improved.

There were a broad range of recommendations. One of the recommendations was brought forth by Organic Pastures Dairy and yours truly. OPDC is forced to pay $20,000 per month into the CA Milk Pool even though we can not purchase one drop of raw milk from another dairy and bottle it at OPDC. Structurally we can not participate because we can not commingle our raw milk with any other dairy. All raw milk must be tested and kept separate. AB 1735 ( the new Coliform limit of less than 10 ) confirmed this rule.

Yet…the CDFA demands that OPDC pay into the Milk Pool $20,000 per month and get not one benefit!!! ZERO…NADA…Nothing.

At the hearings Glenn Gleisen ( the CDFA milk pool commissioner from the 1960-1980 period ) testified that Raw Milk dairies had never been part of the milk pool for structural reasons and that Raw MIlk Dairies now should be excluded.

The BIG DAIRY lobby ( Western United Dairymen ) got really upset and down right jealous of the fact that they can not produce raw milk and furthermore they can not sell their dead products to 25% of the population that have "Pastuerization Intolerance" ( in the old days it was called Lastose Intolerance ). So SB 362 went through the Senate and passed all votes. When it went on to the Assemby Ag committee ( the same committee that passed AB 1735 in 2007 with out one hearing on a consent callender…they are now being sued by Gary Cox on this matter ).

We lost by one vote. A democrat from Davis voted against the bill. But it is probably not her fault. I must blame myself for not reaching out to her first and educating her about Raw Milk and AB 1735. She probably only heard from WUD.

This story is not over…stay tuned for more. Oh…the politics of Raw Milk and CA. OPDC is doing great in spite of these little speed bumps. Remember…we have the moms and the kids and dads and the people. When you have the people you have everything.

So there are meetings next week and this river will ebb and flow and go and stop and crash and do all kinds of things, This is the nature of nature and change. This is a fight and fights are never boring or 100% predictable. One thing is for sure….

We have the best fighting moms in the world and they have shown themselves in battle.

I will not give up no matter what. This is little fish….. the FDA is the real threat.

Don…I hope that answers your question. I do not have a boring day ever. We are also involved in a lawsuit with CDFA on the Milk Pool matter. We are hoping that the jury will see this for what it is and throw us out of the milk pool. In the past Alta Dena, Stueves, Claravale are all out of the Milk Pool.


Don Wittlinger
July 4, 2009 5:28 pm

Thank you Mark for clearly explaining all the details left unsaid in the article. It is indeed distressing to hear that this system is confiscating {stealing} money from OPDC a real dairy and your customers all the young Moms you so warmly talk about. I assume then they redistribute the ill gotten gain into the scheme called the milk pricing pool thus the CAFOs benefit from this extortion.
I will limit my comments to is utterly SHAMEFULL and OURAGEOUS!

Sylvia Gibson
July 4, 2009 8:20 pm


I was taught in school that America was a free market. If you are forced, that is not freedom.
How did America end up this way/


Sylvia Gibson
July 4, 2009 8:35 pm


Instead of cleaning up the processers and changing the feed and environment they place a "bandaid" on a major proplem. How is this suppposed to work?

Ken Conrad
July 5, 2009 1:54 am

Its more like opening a Pandoras box rather then a band aid treatment Silvia. Tactical approaches or measures of this nature used to manipulate the ecosystem is short sighted and will break down in the face of natures spontaneity.

The result of further studies (biased or not, pro or con) is irrelevant to the majority of those who consume raw milk daily around the world. Will their ever be enough data and will more of it improve our understanding or add to our knowledge?

Confucius stated that, Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Albert Einstein stipulated that, Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

Clearly our ignorance aught to become ever more apparent as we acquire more knowledge and one would think that this should nurture humility and respect, yet in reality we use our perceived knowledge as a tool of power in order to manipulate and control.

Our innate religious obsession with control and ensuing laws is the bases for the erosion of our freedom.

Ken Conrad

milk farmer
July 5, 2009 6:24 am


My apologies for being a bit harsh…but it makes me angry when the good folks that are working tirelessly to produce and promote raw milk are compared equally to those who are working just a tirelessly to prevent consumers from access. It just aint so. That each of them supposedly has similar ‘sacred cows’ doesn’t jive. One side is working with the truth, and creating a miracle of health, the other is lying, deceiving and abusing the powers that they have, to promote the continued decrease in the public health and robbing good people of their quality of life. Equating the two, does the good folks an injustice.

In regards to the commercial conversion. This change in attitude from the Foundation I find most distressing, and real care must be taken. The idea that large commercial dead milk dairies can ‘skim a bit off the top’ for raw milk sales, before the tanker comes, is a real danger for the small family farms that have built their grass based herds over years (decreases the quality of milk, and endangers the consumer). It’s a threat to everything that we have worked for. When attempting to increase the supply, the torture of ‘the ends justifies the means’ must be avoided, and again much care must be taken to insure that the people that are producing raw milk are doing it properly, and for the right reasons. The milk is most important, the money should be secondary.

I started with just a few cows, and have built my herd slowly…and everything I milk has been born here on my farm…I know completely everything that has gone into these cows. Sure, I could’ve made more money faster by buying other cows, but to me the cow and the milk is more important than the amount of profit I can make. The quality of the product stands out, and the reaction of my friends (the consumers) is consistent and gratifying. It was, and is, worth doing it the right way. I have to look these folks in the eye every week. Expecting others to do the same is not unreasonable….(even if they’re just shipping to some grocery store shelf)

I know of a dairy in another state that has ‘joined the ranks’. They are a commercial dead milk dairy that was given the opportunity to skim some off the top for raw milk sales…and their profits have soared. Now they have gone more to grass, but they still feed gmo corn and soy…they are proud now that they only need one or two semi loads of feed a month, rather than five or six. This is totally wrong, yet is given the blessing of the Foundation (kick back money talks). It has had an effect on those that milk small herds in the area. This is not the right way to increase the raw milk supply….and no one can convince me that it is.

Dangling the raw milk option in front of desperate conventional dairymen IS dangerous.

Fact is transitioning 100’s of cows who have been selected for production on grain to a grass based, healthy model is quite easy to say, but a lot harder to do. I don’t doubt that it is possible, but it’s not something that can occur over night. Doing it half assed shouldn’t be an option…and keeping irons in both fires is immoral.

Yes there are deficiencies on both sides of this ‘fence’, but to equate the two, to lump them as ‘the same’ just from different sides, is a shallow and easy cop out. ..and is ‘completely’ wrong.

The Complete Patient
July 5, 2009 9:57 pm

Milk Farmer,
Your point about converting conventional dairies to raw suppliers is well taken. The challenge is that demand for raw milk is growing rapidly, likely faster than existing dairies will be able to supply. Your approach is admirable, and likely very sensible. I just don’t think the supply can grow in such a deliberate fashion. I’m not suggesting that we encourage conventional dairies to skim milk off the top for raw consumption–that would be a disaster because it would almost certainly lead to illnesses, which would lead to harsher government intervention. But there must be some middle road that can work, to mutual benefit of dairies and consumers.


Steve Bemis
July 6, 2009 8:49 am

Great article in today’s NYT about Will Allen farming on a couple of acres in Milwaukee:


milk farmer
July 6, 2009 8:17 pm


If the raw milk supply doesn’t grow in a deliberate fashion, then all that many have worked for will be diminished.

Pigeon holing raw milk into the conventional food supply model is a disaster waiting to happen…..it’s different…and a prime opportunity to alter the way food is acquired, and farmers appreciated, will be lost if we let those mega 100+ cow dairies take advantage of the raw milk demand. Demand may drive the bus, but it’s the farmer that puts fuel in the tank. Encouraging thet disconnect is just more of the same pap we’ve come to expect from ADM and their ilk.

We won’t even get into the spectre of large agribusiness co-opting the stuff we’ve worked so hard to promote….look what has been done with the organic label…to the detriment of small farmers everywhere (and the quality of the produce that bears the label).

No…I don’t believe that we can’t grow deliberately, and the notion that there are those that just can’t get raw milk is essentially false. Yes they can’t get it ‘conveniently’ at their local Piggly Wiggly…..awwww…. Raw milk is worth the exrta effort, and those that are knowlegable about the benefits know that the extra mile is really worth traversing.

And one more thing…I reread the post again and have one more bone to pick…. you wrote

"Heck, its tough for certain especially vociferous readers here to even use their real names to ring the freedom bell, so what chance is there that theyll go out on a limb via civil disobedience or other forms of real-life support?"

The notion that producers here with pseudonyms aren’t ‘willing to go out on a limb for freedom’ is total and absolute bullshit! And frankly you should be ashamed for implying that…especially towards those who are willing to produce raw milk in states where it is not legal to do so. Talk about REAL civil disobedience and REAL LIFE support. You got nerve writing that, buddy. It shows that you don’t understand what it means to be married to a herd, 2x7x52……..everyday, rain or shine, freezing or baking, when your kid has a evening performance, or your family wants to get out early to beat the rush to the lake. I’m sure it’s similar to wracking your brains trying to come up with a few paragraphs, every few days, that will ‘entertain and inform’…… (there aren’t too many here that stress ‘freedom’ and use a pen name, so yes, I did take it personally)

Now many of us here have high expectations for you and this blog….and as always, when one has expectations, there will be disappointments….but this ‘entry’…frankly…sucked. (although it was a nice opportunity to use the ‘painted cow’ picture’)

The Complete Patient
July 7, 2009 2:13 am

Milk Farmer,
I definitely didn’t mean to disparage farmers who use pseudonyms here because they live in anti-raw-milk locales. I’ve always gone out of my way to try to protect such individuals. Such inadvertent criticism i’s what happens sometimes when you violate your own advice against getting personal in blog writings.

As for your other point, I’m not advocating "pigeonholing raw milk into the conventional food supply model," even though California experience suggests it’s not impossible. Definitely a subject for further discussion.


Pauline Schneider
July 8, 2009 9:14 pm

Miguel quotes the following:
"But the liberal brainwashing by our public schools and our mainstream media has been going on so long, that what once might have seemed like a normal plan is now viewed as right-wing extremism."

I’m not sure if those are Miguel’s words, but he concludes with what are definitely his own words:
"What we really need to do is to make people aware that the federal government assumes that it has the authority to regulate how we get the food we eat.This is what we need to change.This massive power grab by the federal government is obviously not what the framers of the constitution would have allowed in their interpretation of the commerce clause."

Apparently this issue touches on several fronts: Personal freedoms, social justice, political access, and most especially the public health. Perhaps several more as well, if I give it even more thought.

Let me just remind people in lieu of the first quote regarding "liberal public education" and its "brainwashing". As a former student of the US public schools and former student of a genuine, liberal private school, I can tell you there is a difference between the two and that our public schools are far from liberal, if Liberal we mean by having access to a variety of resources, information and well trained teachers who teach children how to think without ramming the in-power administration’s agenda down their throats.

I would say our current public school system is a solid right wing, do-as-I-say-think-as-I-think-stand-up-for-the-fake-pledge system. When we change that, we will achieve true freedoms. I hope to be part of that positive change as a history teacher. We have soooo been repeating history’s mistakes lately, that it’s getting ridiculous. Miguel is correct about our nation’s founders, they had a special chip on their shoulders about rights and freedoms. They all put their necks at risk to win those rights and freedoms. We should stand ashamed when we whine about our own petty complaints about losing our jobs if we speak out. They risked all for a nation of free men and women. We have forgotten that. Maybe because we are no longer free?

And today the stakes are higher, it’s not just taxation without representation that was at stake then, today it’s the entire human species. I believe that the government and our public servants have not adequately realized this point and that once they do, corrections will be made. Unfortunately, more catastrophes like the e-coli outbreaks and melamine in our food will have to occur before they come to their senses.
Meanwhile, the rates of cancer, diabetes, autism and other formerly rare diseases continue to rise. When one out of every 150 children is autistic, you would think someone would become alarmed.

Pauline Schneider
July 8, 2009 9:23 pm

Steve I just read the article. It is great!
Saved it for future lessons in social studies classes talking about Great Depression and that 7 year drought.