From the Middle East, a Rallying Cry for Raw Milk and Food Rights Activists


From his supporters, a visual image of Vernon Hershberger's struggle, as he moves through the legal system.Barack Obama gave a remarkable speech in Israel last week. Remarkable not just because he challenged Israeli young people to push for peace with the Palestinians, but because he was cheered by the young Israelis in the audience. 


One of his statements especially resonated at home, possibly in a way he didn’t intend: “Let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.  You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”


Around the U.S., ordinary people are pushing their state and local politicians to take risks over the issue of raw milk and food rights. Nearly everywhere you look, it seems, there is a skirmish over raw milk and food rights. In some cases, the politicians are responding positively, and in other places they are responding negatively. But the efforts on behalf of food rights seem more widespread this year than ever before. And I’ll bet they’ll be even more widespread the year after that.

I have selected a few examples of developments affecting legislative and other initiatives on behalf of raw milk. For a more complete listing of initiatives that have been under way, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund monitors the legislative proposals.


*In Texas, hearings are being held to change the state’s law to allow raw dairies to sell at farmers markets and to deliver to customers’ homes, reports Judith McGeary, of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.


*In Nevada, an assembly committee heard testimony on behalf of a proposal that would officially legalize the sale of raw milk, heard testimony from Mark McAfee, owner of the country’s largest raw milk dairy in neighboring California. 


*In Maine, a ninth town, Brooksville, has passed a Food Sovereignty ordinance, allowing for private sale of raw milk and other farm products directly from town farmers to consumers. 


*In Arkansas, a House committee defeated a bill that would allowed raw milk sales from farms, by a nine-to-eight vote. 


*In Montana, a House committee has approved legislation that would allow raw milk sales direct from the farm. Interestingly, the bill’s supporters felt compelled to remove a provision mandating testing because state agriculture officials were objecting that testing is too costly. So to avoid this opposition, the legislators approved a labeling provision. When the bill comes up for a vote, the opponents will no doubt criticize the absence of required testing…damned if you do and damned if you don’t. 


*In Wisconsin, the state’s governor, Scott Walker, has indicated he would sign legislation that made raw milk available directly from dairy farms. This is a reversal from 2010, when the state’s then-governor, Jim Doyle, vetoed legislation allowing sales from the farm. Legislation is due to be introduced within the next few weeks. 


*In Iowa, a bill that would have allowed sales from the farm failed to make it out of committee to the full House. 


*There is an effort in North Dakota to reverse the state’s existing laws, which allow the sale of raw milk from farms. 


*The National Farmers Union, a 110-year-old representative of small family farms, approved at its national convention a resolution in favor of raw milk, “as it provides a viable market niche for dairies.” It recommended “that raw milk be bottled as the product of a single source…” And it said there should be “equal access to raw milk (and or raw dairy products) for human consumption for all consumers that choose to consume raw milk.” 



Joseph Heckman of Rutgers University in New Jersey sent me a headline from a newspaper in 1980, about an Iowa farmer being jailed for refusing orders to discontinue sale of raw milk. His point was that this battle has been going on for many years, and seems nearly endless. 


But as the forces for food freedom grow and expand, one thing is clear: there are more proponents than opponents. The problem is that the opponents often have more money, to influence key legislators. The proponents need to keep pushing and organizing and backing politicians who understand that food choice is important to the vast majority of people. There will inevitably be defeats along the way. For better or worse, maintaining access to wholesome foods is as much a political process as it is a farming process. 

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102 Comments on "From the Middle East, a Rallying Cry for Raw Milk and Food Rights Activists"

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Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 28, 2013 5:51 pm

There are people making big efforts to fight the system.!

The following is Montana’s bill

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 28, 2013 6:20 pm

If someone gets ill from contaminated milk, it doesn’t appear to hurt the industry, just look at those who died from the pasteurized milk a few years ago. Aren’t they still in business? Guess the bottom feeders didn’t “own” their farm..

” he pays about $12,000 a year in inspection fees for his 270 head of dairy cows.”

Seems the dairy farmers haven’t been too business savvy to allow it to come to $12000/yr. I’m thinking perhaps his milk NEEDS to be boiled. Perhaps he can’t compete with selling healthy raw milk?… Read more »

D. Smith
March 28, 2013 7:45 pm

@ Sylvia: The MT bill involves small herd operations with 15 or less cows, 30 or less goats (lactating, that is) so this is foreign to Mark who has a large operation. Small herd operators generally take very good care of their animals and obviously that was a part of the reasoning behind the bill.

Also, don’t listen to Bill because he doesn’t know his azz from a hole in the ground when it comes to MT. The MT farmers know just as much about dairy as any WI farmer, and they have politicians with a… Read more »

D. Smith
March 28, 2013 7:56 pm

@ Mark: Just because there’s not testing required doesn’t mean MT dairy farmers won’t do that. No standards? What does that mean? You think because it’s MT and not CA there are no standards?? I know a lot of people from MT and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you get some nasty emails at some point. I’d rather see less regulation than more because we have to start somewhere in backing up the train. Do you think that MT dairy farmers weren’t milking until this bill? If they’ve been producing… Read more »

D. Smith
March 28, 2013 8:02 pm

@ Sylvai: “Sounds like the Bitterroot dairy farmer is bitter.” Har-har!! Good one. The green-eyed monster.

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
March 28, 2013 9:00 pm

I am almost tempted to move to Montana.

There are thousands of gallons of raw milk being sold (illegally) and consumed in Ontario on a daily basis with no illness and absent all the rigorous testing advocated by some on this site.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 28, 2013 9:08 pm

Isn’t it amazing that the human race is able to survive.

mark mcafee
March 28, 2013 10:22 pm

I applaud Montana…believe me. They won the big raw milk jack pot on this one. What I do not hear or see is a group being formed to help mentor the new inexperienced dairymen that will come out of the woodwork to feed people and try to survive in this new dodge city for raw milk.

Along with this freedom comes huge responsibility. I talk to Charlotte Smith all the time about Oregon and the lousy default standards that are happening all over Oregon. She knows….she takes calls from families that complain about very short shelf life raw milk… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 28, 2013 10:55 pm

gee Mark,does every state have “a group being formed to help mentor the new inexperienced dairymen”? because you don’t “hear or see” any groups being formed, it must not be in existence? Didn’t the bill just pass within days?

I would bet the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund would be willing to point those who ask, in a general direction for learning. I would think the up and coming farmers have enough brains to ask at whatever universities there are, I bet they even know how to read.

What makes… Read more »

March 29, 2013 12:58 am

Not everyone can afford $14.00 a gallon Mark.

March 29, 2013 1:17 am

And they’re only testing for the irrelevant. They don’t even test to make sure it’s raw. Selling pasteurised as raw is a big problem in Europe. I see no reason for useless testing that adds $13.00 to every gallon of milk. How can we expect testing from people who talk as though they no nothing about raw milk, people that have never even studied the difference between raw and pasteurised milk. People that are afraid of a little competition.

March 29, 2013 1:55 am

The Montana House passed the Raw Milk bill 98-2. Doesn’t it still have to go through the Montana Senate and then the governor before it becomes law?


March 29, 2013 2:13 am

anyone who truly cares about feeding his family properly, will pay the going rate for top quality milk. That being = what the farmer needs not only to survive, but prosper. Surely you agree that the workman is worthy of his hire ? Where is it written that it’s the duty of farmers, to subsidize consumers?
If you’re not making enough $$ to buy sustenance – then the solution to that problem lies within yourself … not, by beating-down the producer.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 2:30 am

There is no doubt that most would buy what is best for them, if they can afford it. Where do you get “beating-down the producer”?

What is sustenance to one is not to another. There are many posts on this blog that go over that ad-nauseum.

March 29, 2013 2:48 am

The kind of testing I would like to see done would be a bacterial community profile of the milk that specifically looks at diversity in the community of bacteria in raw milk. Diversity , both genetic and functional, ” needs to be preserved to ensure buffering of communities against abiotic and biotic stresses.”


“Biodiversity increases the stability of microbial communities against both biotic and abiotic environmental perturbations. Depending on stressor type, varying aspects of biodiversity contribute to the stability of ecosystem functions. The results suggest that both genetic and functional… Read more »

Mary McGonigle-Martin
March 29, 2013 3:30 am

Mark, over the years you and I have had our differences and have exchanged harsh words with each other. I think we have finally come to a place where we can agree. I 100% get what you are saying. If raw milk is not produced with the highest respect for the pathogens that can contaminate the milk, tragedies like the Oregon outbreak will continue to happen.

Even though you have had outbreaks at your dairy and I get frustrated at your inability to acknowledge them, I do give you credit for attempting to set… Read more »

mark mcafee
March 29, 2013 5:35 am

D Smith,

The Foundation Farms incident was a very small herd of less than 10 cows…..they put 21 people into ecoli hell. Small verses large herd means very little

Conditions, the plan and mind set means everything.

March 29, 2013 6:02 am

But Gordon, the producer only gets $1.00 a gallon. And like I said what value is added for the $13.00 worth of useless red tape. If you have the $14.00 than spend it but don’t force it on working class people with barely a roof over their head. My family drinks over a gallon a day. You’re asking me to through $300,00 a month out the window. The state has no concern for the quality of milk or the health of the people that drink it. And the same is true of anyone that spreads their lies about raw… Read more »

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
March 29, 2013 7:03 am


That was an excellent research article.

“The results suggest that both genetic and functional diversity need to be preserved to ensure buffering of communities against abiotic and biotic stresses.”

I am afraid that many will be unable to grasp the significance of that last sentence from the paragraph you just quoted (above). They are overly preoccupied with isolation and destruction (imbalance) hence their inability to fully comprehend the importance of diversity and preservation (balance).

Hopefully Montana’s reasonable approach will prevail in light of this fear driven control mentality that has bewitched the psyche of our nations.

“A nation that is afraid to… Read more »

American Patriot
March 29, 2013 11:40 am

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery” Thomas Jefferson. Montana is standing up for your rights people, and now the two big blowhards here, Mark and Bill, are on the offensive against Liberty, and Freedom, once again. If you two really hate American values, and freedom, and Liberty, so much, why don’t you guys take your businesses and families to another country that espouse your Communist ideals? RAWMI of North Korea? RAWMI of China? Moscow RAWMI? Red RAWMI?
Control the food and control the people, control the raw milk and lie in bed with the regulators and that is cool… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 12:39 pm

Miguel, “How we manage the cows, the diversity of microbes in their environment ,their pasture or feed and in the milk, will determine if the microbial community in the milk is stable or not.”

That is spot on.

D. Smith
March 29, 2013 1:47 pm

@ Mark: That doesn’t mean all small producers will have that issue, does it? After all, you’re a large producer and you had problems too. Small producers are LOT less likely to have issues and that’s the truth whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

I’ll never understand where people like you are coming from. First you want freedoms and then we finally see a glimpse of sun at the end of the *regulation* tunnel and then you decide that’s not what you want either. You don’t want gubment interference – but you want… Read more »

Lola Granola
March 29, 2013 2:01 pm

American Patriot,

You are right not to be fooled. RAWMI regulations were written to fit into Codex Alimentarius and the Food Safety Modernization Act, as was exposed by me on this blog a few years ago. It’s all a very calculated plan.

Enjoy this e-mail from Bill Anderson. Note that Mr. Social Justice doesn’t even pay his workers minimum wage, and that for as much as he expounds on food safety, he admits to drinking beer while making cheese.

Looking for a helper with cheese making, Wednesday
Posted By: certainkindo…

Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:57 pm |
… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 2:05 pm

D Smith,

Logic doesn’t work with some.

As they know what’s best, right? They will tell you what you need to know, right? They will tell you what to eat, how to eat, how to sleep, how to clean, right? They will tell you where you must buy products, right? They will tell you what is right or wrong, right? They will even tell you haw you are supposed to breath, right? And, when things go awry it is never their fault, always anothers fault, right? Because they are the know all… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 2:11 pm

Wow, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it. Forked tongue? Two faced? BSer?

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 2:12 pm

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery” Thomas Jefferson”

I like that statement, thanks.

D. Smith
March 29, 2013 2:40 pm

I guess that’s right, Sylvia! And there are those on this forum/blog who think we aren’t into nanny-statism. Good grief.

I really like that quote by John F. Kennedy which Ken included in one of his posts here recently. I thought about putting it here myself a little earlier, but then decided against it because I figured I’d catch flack from the people who are afraid of life without rules and regulations i.e., a cushion to fall back on. But it’s time for people to take control on their own. There is nothing wrong… Read more »

D. Smith
March 29, 2013 2:51 pm

Thank you for this, Lola. Speaks volumes.

March 29, 2013 3:57 pm

What do we learn about the diversity of the microbial community in our milk from laboratory pathogen tests? The length of time the milk stays fresh tasting in the fridge tells us what the numbers of bacteria are. The flavor (fresh and incubated) tells us what the somatic cell count is. We don’t need a microscope to see what the diversity of the microbial community is.The farm practices will tell us that. Does the farmer have monoculture crops ( corn ,small grains) in rotation on the farm? Then the fields are plowed every few… Read more »

D. Smith
March 29, 2013 4:04 pm

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. – Mark Twain

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 5:58 pm

Good one too D Smith!

D. Smith
March 29, 2013 6:38 pm

Protection from local food and raw milk. Sounds like this idea isn’t too popular.

[quote from article]: “Why? Because a growing cultural trend of embracing high-quality foods from local sources to make our gobbling both more green and more gratifying has run into a lot of onerous food regulation that makes the delivering and selling of your neighborhood kale or goat cheese illegal. It has also run into entrenched food purveyors in the market who are more than happy to use government regulation to muscle out these small, new competitors.” [end quote]

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 7:38 pm

Seems more and more people are beholden to the govt for assistance, for numerous reasons; lost jobs, money issues from high health care costs, etc. Many of these people have been told, or believe that the govt will assist them in their time of need. So it is a deep ingrained belief. ‘The govt will take care of me’. I saw a lot of this belief system when I cared for the veterans. They truly believed that uncle sam would be there for them and take care of the ills they incurred while working… Read more »

mark mcafee
March 29, 2013 9:01 pm


I feel the same about you. I respect your passion and commitment to safety. We have a battle our my hands. It seems that the fringe is collected and speaks up here at TCP. Few think that testing, plans and standands are important. Let me tell you and everyone…they are essential to reliable source of low risk raw milk.

The insurance industry cancelling raw milk policies is a great example of reality. RAWMI LISTED farmers pay 10% the cost of normal risk raw milk insurance plans. Ask Charlotte Smith. Her quote went from $10,000 per year for three cows… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 9:13 pm

“Few think that testing, plans and standands are important.”

Really? Do name names…. Because they don’t do things YOUR way it is wrong? That is what YOU are implying.

“If raw milk is going to ever to grow or be respected, farmers will need to volentarily join a standards org of their own choosing and get their act together.”

How do you know farmers haven’t collectively gotten together to whatever they feel needs to be done? Presumptuous? What makes you think their “act” isn’t together? Who the hell are you to dictate what other farmers should do?… Read more »

Charlotte Smith
March 29, 2013 9:21 pm

Sylvia, no, there are no groups in existence to help raw dairy producers get up to speed, save one we just started in Oregon.

Ask away at the universities, too, you’ll be transferred all over the place and finally dead end.

FTCLDF can point you to join their organization and talk to Tim Wightman on the phone. That doesn’t translate to how to milk a cow and produce pathogen free milk.

Farmers try their best to be responsible but with no training available that’s puts severe limits on their abilities.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 10:11 pm

Charlotte, Mark implies that no one can do anything without his (rawmi) assistance. The way he words things only succeeds in further alienating people. It is amazing that others have been able to produce raw milk without any problems without rawmi assistance over the centuries.

I would not join his club, because of things he has said in the past and continues to say. He is no different than the govt demigods. Not his way, then it must be the wrong way.

He isn’t promoting rawmi, he continues to alienate farmers… Read more »

D. Smith
March 29, 2013 10:14 pm

@ Sylvia: I agree. The thing no one here has mentioned recently is – – no deaths from raw milk, nationally. I’ve seen mention here before about no raw milk deaths but 8 deaths from pasteurized (or something similar to that anyhow). Do ya’ll think for one minute that small dairy farmers in the states where raw milk is strangled by regulation haven’t been producing milk and people haven’t been drinking it? Really?? Evidently small farmers all across america are certainly doing something right without any assistance from some organization or from the… Read more »

Charlotte Smith
March 29, 2013 10:33 pm

Sylvia, farmers have not gotten together collectively to produce milk with even just some basic standards. This needs to happen for a continued supply of safe raw milk.

Raw dairy producers start milking a cow, usually with no training, and have little or no guidance as to some basic necessities. It’s a very expensive on-taking so they do what they can with what little they have. This gets them by for awhile – months, years. Then, it catches up with them and illness occurs.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you follow… Read more »

March 29, 2013 11:25 pm

Mark, “Few think that testing, plans and standands are important. ” Any proof, or like Bill’s unanswered accusation that Joel Salatin doesn’t care about producing safe food (which I can easily provide multiple references to Joel emphasizing safety), is this just more BS from the two of you that alienates people, divides the movement, and shows how a completely self-absorbed and judgmental attitude that both of you continually exude towards others who happen to not tow your party line?

See, because I can provide proof. The farmer I work with and I talk about food safety, production, standards each… Read more »

Charlotte Smith
March 29, 2013 11:43 pm

I’ve seen McAfee work with dozens of raw dairy producers. Not one was offended or alienated, insulted or demeaned. This was for days and hours on end, so lots of opportunity. These are people I know, see, communicate with regularly so would know and hear otherwise. He taught, communicated, modeled, encouraged, supported.

if you don’t find what you want on the site, then call – take initiative. It’s not it’s a new business still being built. There is such a larger perspective here than you are taking. Are you a raw… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 29, 2013 11:54 pm

Guess he only insults those on this blog. I am not attacking anyone, just responding to his words.

D. Smith
March 30, 2013 1:53 am

I’m not attacking anyone either, but I AM saying this much: if more and more states don’t find their spine and figure out a way to slam the door tightly shut on the regulators (read: fda) the way MT did, there is no hope for this fight for rights. If you leave the door open far enough for them to get their little toe in, under the guise of *safety*, they’ll be back with a vengence. Those of you insisting that testing is “necessary” to provide safe and wholesome raw milk are acquiescing and soon… Read more »

mark mcafee
March 30, 2013 3:41 am

I give up with you Nay- Sayers….I will just keep poking away and helping
those that want help…..we will just keep LISTING more and more farmers for free. We will see the track record created….we will see who has affordable insurance in the coming years. We will see who leads progress and makes change happen at the national level. I treat all with respect….talk is very cheap.

Continue your dialogue…I have teaching and work to do.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 30, 2013 4:19 am


Still no answer….

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
March 30, 2013 10:47 am

I believe Mark is sincere, and his passionate efforts to implement RAWMI are understandable considering the run-ins he has had with a system that has no qualms about using fear and deceit as a tool to achieve its self-righteous and/or power driven desires.

We are in a state of transition where scientists are on the cusp of realizing the true value and importance of the microbial world to our survival as a species. This transition is not going to be easy considering the fear and contempt that has been nurtured towards this unseen world over the last several hundred years.… Read more »

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
March 30, 2013 12:23 pm

Well this is an about face!

“In the TED Talk above, ecologist Allan Savory explains how we’re currently encouraging desertification, and how to not only stop it, but reverse it, by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock.”
“According to Savory, rising population, land turning into desert at a steady clip (known as desertification), converge to create a “perfect storm” that threatens life on earth. Most people think technology is required to solve the problem.”
“Not so, he says. While we do need novel technology to replace fossil fuels, desertification cannot be reversed with technology. For that, we need to revert backward,… Read more »

American Patriot
March 30, 2013 12:39 pm

Joel Salatin and Vernon Hershberger should sue the panties off of Bill Anderson for making slanderous false claims about them on this public forum. Will FTCLDF be willing to litigate?
Mark and Bill do you think that all Montana dairy farmers are incompetent? Seems Montana raw daries already have a better track record than OP.
Maybe we’ll just keep watching this blog for more insults to our intelligence from you two and we’ll join in with the other farmers you guys slap around verbally all the time in a massive slander suit.
Why does RAWMI, Mark, and Bill use the same… Read more »

American Patriot
March 30, 2013 1:05 pm

We will see who are slaves and who are free men. Some of us you attack have been dairymen our entire lives (almost 60). How long have you been dairying? You have done your share of cheap talking for a long time, maybe it’s time for you to make a public apology to the dairy farmers of Montana? Then practice what you preach and treat everyone with equal respect (that includes those of us who are not of your ideology). An old friend from Tennesse alway said ” Talk is cheap, it takes money to buy whiskey”.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 30, 2013 1:58 pm


There is no doubt about Mark’s passion. As said, he does sound like the govt shills. There is no reason to continually insult those who don’t agree with all he says. Numerous people on this blog have tried to explain his need to change how he words things if he wishes to bring people together, he has chosen not to listen and continue as he has been. His words just further alienate people. It is a shame as there is no doubt he has a lot of knowledge that would be… Read more »