Raw Dairy Farmers Wait for the Other Shoe to Drop


It’s been a year since the criminal trial of Wisconsin raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger, and his acquittal by a jury of all licensing charges. 


Things have been very quiet on the enforcement front since then….almost as quiet as the recent discussion on this blog. It’s almost as if someone flicked a light switch, and said, “Okay, lay off the farmers for now.” Aggressive enforcement in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, and California against small farms selling raw milk and other farm-raised food on a private basis suddenly ceased. 


Is it an indication the regulators and politicians who control them have had a change of heart, have decided to encourage and accept private food sales? Or an indication of a shift in tactics by Big Ag, and the regulators they control? 


I am inclined to go with the second option. I believe we are seeing a shift in tactics. The regulators and their corporate overseers came to the conclusion that going after small farms with buying clubs and herdshares wasn’t good public relations….in fact, it was disastrous public relations. 


I choose that option because the regulators and legislators have refrained from enacting legislation in any of the state hot spots that would back small-farm sales of raw milk. Indeed, the FDA and medical establishments have worked hard to sidetrack or defeat initiatives in all these states that would have suggested a desire for a real solution. 


What that means is that we haven’t seen the end of pressure on small farms, simply a change in tactics. It could be we’ll see a resumption of the enforcement under the guise of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration went back to the drawing boards last year after massive opposition to its plans to implement highly restrictive “safety” measures affecting how farmers make compost and use water. 


In April, Newsweek ran a cover article about farmer suicides. The lengthy piece mainly speculated about the pressures of loneliness and droughts as the causes of a rising tide of farmer suicides, not only in the U.S., but around the world. The suicide rate for American farmers is nearly twice that of the general population. India has had more than 270,000 farmer suicides since 1995 and in France a farmer commits suicide every two days, according to Newsweek. 


What the article didn’t touch on to a significant extent was the impact of America’s expanding food oligarchy, and its spreading international tentacles, as a cause. Oligopolies (control of markets by just a few entities) eliminate competition so they can control markets. Controlling markets means paying low rates to suppliers and charging high rates to consumers, so as to maximize profits. 


In agriculture, the suppliers are farmers. The spread of oligopolies (run by oligarchs) in agriculture has had a devastating effect on dairy and meat farmers, in particular, because these are the areas of agriculture with the greatest amount of economic concentration. 


Farmers selling food privately via herdshares, food clubs, and farmers markets threatens these oligopolies by introducing competition into the equation. Oligarchs despise competition—it threatens their control of markets—and will do anything to get rid of it (short of competing based on who has the better products). Pushing the state and federal regulators to shut down small farms on the pretext of not having retail, food handling, and dairy licenses was an effort to send a message to small farms to stay away from selling privately. Of course, the opposite happened as more farmers learned about the opportunities for improved emotional and financial satisfaction via escaping the commodity system. 

So we wait for the other shoe to drop. 

Leave a Reply

33 Comments on "Raw Dairy Farmers Wait for the Other Shoe to Drop"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
June 6, 2014 6:41 pm

You talking about that crippled nut upstairs, the one with only one foot and no leg to stand on? That guy?

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 7, 2014 2:31 am

They are regrouping. Or maybe giving a reprieve so that those they oppose lets down their guard, then attack again. I doubt they stop until they reach their goals.

mark mcafee
June 7, 2014 4:17 am

This post is made from deep Mexico where I am working at a Rotary International LIGA clinic. Being a pilot for LIGA has always been a grounding experience. All the trivial food fighting we do in our first world dysfunction is brought back into perspective.

As for my opinion about the other shoe dropping….great question. It is hard to know what is about to happen next. We all know that regulators that are stretched thin…tend to enforce by exception. In other words…no body gets sick and no body complains and generally no enforcement. I also know that here in… Read more »

June 7, 2014 4:32 am

David, your admonishment is hereby accepted with gratitude. Thanks.

Here’s hoping that the various mind-fogs wear off of our fellow citizens and that they will simply walk away from these clothing-optional emperors of our food and will crack the whip of their vote and put an end to this corruption of government for commercial ends with the end result that there will be nobody around to hear the second shoe of the goofballs on the next floor up.

Science is getting beat up pretty badly here as well. These clowns seemingly will grab anything on any pretext and pretzel… Read more »

June 7, 2014 10:27 am

And that, my friends, is a wonderful introduction to the nascent raw milk oligarchy.

mark mcafee
June 7, 2014 1:15 pm


If the use of the word nascent was intended to define the emerging efforts of the RAWMI community of farmers….your imagination has got the best of you. RAWMI is a farmers tool to circle the wagons and protect against the attack of oligarchs. RAWMI is an emerging community of like minded farmers that are developing a technology that will allow farmers to safely produce a healing whole and deliver it to humanity. If you think this is a nascent oligarchy…you are eating our young. Chill dude.

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
June 7, 2014 5:14 pm

Help, I’ve fallen and can’t find my other shoe !! Good thing I only have one leg.

Does anyone here have a degree in Law of Unintended Consequences? And just what the heck is an omen.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 8, 2014 2:29 am

Thank you Pete, I learned a new word.

June 8, 2014 5:22 am

A long way? Maybe or maybe not. The cards are all there for it to happen. We need to stop playing “don’t look behind the man behind the curtain” and have a clear eyed view of what’s going on here if we don’t want to end up in some bad end game scenarios.

The Coming Raw Milk Oligarchy:

Step 1: “FDA will come to respect the work done by [RAWMI] and leave them alone as they… enforce against others.” – Mark M.
Step 2: The FDA hears Mark’s repeated denigration of small and independent farmers and his claims that RAWMI certificated raw… Read more »

June 8, 2014 5:40 am

Of course you’d say that. But even if outright oligarchy is not your intent, it is a possible outcome of your work. But what is your goal here?

“It is our goal that state agencies and hopefully the FDA will come to respect the work done by this community of Listed farmers and leave them alone as they may or may not enforce against others. ”

The state enforcing raw milk bans against all farmers EXCEPT those in RAWMI. That is de factor oligarchy though not de jure.

So who is eating whose young here really? It is you that has… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
June 8, 2014 9:07 am

Pete come on don’t be shy and tell us what you really think. But don’t stop there, also tell us what Mark should be doing instead……. What would you do different and how would you do it, or why aren’t you? I’m sure he’d like to know I know I would. Fight them or join them. And here I used to believe I’m the most cynical person in the world. And ftr (for the record) I actually agree with most of what you say so don’t get mad on me.

Is there an Olichat somewhere? … Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
June 8, 2014 6:01 pm

“it is you who who hopes to set your organization up as immune to government enforcement while others hang in the wind.”

Pete is this hyperbolde or do you actually believe it? I don’t think Mark thinks he is beyond the law, on the opposite I thinks he is an easy target, realizes it and speaks out in public but becomes much more vulnerable that way. He is doing what many of us are calling for, because he can while we don’t.

There’s always something we call proof if you’re so inclined. Dust in the wind is… Read more »

June 8, 2014 6:04 pm

Pete, I have a hypothetical question for you: What would prevent the scenario of all raw milk producers from being listed with RAWMI? RAWMI training is free. RAWMI listing is free. What is the downside?

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
June 8, 2014 9:18 pm

crapola forgot the musig link again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0zSB2WEtwU

Most doctors and pharmaceuticals make money by deceiving u doesn”t that just inspire trust? I’ll take my dog any day.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 8, 2014 9:37 pm

I do realized you directed your questions to Pete.

Being listed on rawmi is free? To be listed, aren’t you required to have tests done? If so, then it is not free.

June 8, 2014 11:58 pm

To play Devil’s Advocate, Sylvia, shouldn’t all raw milk farmers be testing anyway? Shouldn’t all customers be asking to see test results when they choose a farm? And, if you have a “3 cow farm,” testing once a month at your local lab is likely reasonable, and is ~$25/test too onerous for customers to absorb as far as price? (let’s take $25 divided by number of litres per month, and all to the per litre price maybe?). And, I’d think that one could use one’s test results as a form of “marketing” – posting them on… Read more »

June 9, 2014 12:12 am

I hope you’re right David. I don’t know what is going to happen. This is about looking at the lay of the land and how things could go bad and trying to avoid those.

But I don’t think you’re right about the ‘approval of Big Dairy’ part. Laws on raw milk sales are already loosening in many states despite intense pressure from the FDA and big dairy.

Whether this exact tact or something else, they’ll come up with some sort of fall back position where raw milk is available but tightly regulated/controlled. This is the tact the dairy establishment in… Read more »

June 9, 2014 12:14 am

“It is our goal that state agencies and hopefully the FDA will come to respect the work done by this community of Listed farmers and leave them alone as they may or may not enforce against others. “

June 9, 2014 12:25 am

Nothing is free in life, such things need to be paid for. And if all raw milk producers could be listed it would be of no value marketing wise. Just because it is free and reasonable now doesn’t mean it will stay that way once in a monopolist position. In fact such a position all but guarantees it will turn into a bad actor.

This isn’t an attack on RAWMI, I’m sure they’re all wonderful people who mean well. But I’m learning from the lessons of history here. Almost if not every time an organization has come to a monopolist… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 9, 2014 12:46 am

Shelly, I guess it all depends on what one believes things should be. No, I do not believe all farmers should be testing their milk. I doubt that most consumers are interested in any test results, or even have knowledge on what the results mean. As for marketing, that is assuming that the farmer wants to market the milk.

I do believe that consumers should have basic knowledge about all aspects of where their food comes from and how it is processed. They do need to learn what to look for when seeking healthy… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 9, 2014 12:56 am

Just to clarify;

I do believe that if a dairy wants to sell to the majority of the public in stores, like OP and Claravale, then yes, they should test and fall under whatever regulations for ALL dairies (their regulations should be no different than the ones for boiled dairy.)

But farmer John/Jane and their less than 50 head dairies or the small cow share,(who are not selling to the general public) no I don’t believe they should have to test unless they want to.

mark mcafee
June 9, 2014 1:58 am

Pete…just got back home. What great reality check.

One question for you?? What kind of power comes out of an under funded non profit with all volenteers dedicated to preventing illness associated with raw milk ?? There is no way that RAWMI can support the infrastructure of hundreds of Listed raw milk dairymen. RAWMI is out to prove a point and change history using hard data and testing results.

Join us or not…it does not matter. We are on a mission to prove a point and change history.

mark mcafee
June 9, 2014 2:27 am

One more point…ignorance and lack of standards creates places like Foundation Farms, kids in ICUs and a black eye on all raw milk. Is that your idea of freedom. Freedom is not free….it is also not uneducated and or ignorant.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 9, 2014 3:42 am

Your questions have gone unanswered.

Shawna Barr
June 9, 2014 3:51 am

Pete, we all contribute what we have to contribute to the pursuit of food freedom. For some of us, it is by actively taking on the “raw milk is inherently unsafe and standards don’t matter” vs. “raw milk is inherently safe and standards don’t matter” dichotomy with sanity, science, and information.

The activism is only a by-product of the larger benefit of RAWMI though. The greater benefit is the flow of information to farmers who seek to reliably and consistently produce high quality and low risk raw milk. RAWMI serves hundreds of raw milk farms with information through… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
June 9, 2014 4:30 am

As I said in regards to testing, I believe it is up to the farmer to do or not, unless they want to sell in stores. As to standards: Whose standards are right? Or who is to say one way is better than another way? You can have two dairies, one doing whatever protocols rawmi requires and the other doing whatever they’ve been doing for 10 or more years with no sicknesses from either. Who says that a farmer should be required to have SOPs written? Why would a small farmer be required to… Read more »

June 9, 2014 4:03 pm

I believe that the free market, consumer demand, should set the “requirements.” But its obvious that consumer demand failed us re people buying from Foundation Farm, etc.. We tend to look with envy at Europe and its free trade in raw milk – but those farmers have strict protocols they must follow.

My own motivated self-interest comes from living in a place where raw milk sales are illegal (both federal and provincial law), it’s a “health hazard” (provincial law), and it’s illegal to “supply” raw milk to anyone other than a processing plant (provincial law) so even cowshares… Read more »

June 10, 2014 4:07 am

The other shoe is dropping in Illinois – see http://midlifefarmwife.blogspot.ca/2014/06/raw-milk-mondayidph-moves-forward-in.html .

= Prohibition via over-regulation.

D. Smith
D. Smith
June 13, 2014 4:37 pm

Why not just haul out the free market strategies and let them play out? Not the fdA, no sir, not ever. Because it might work for the good of the people and that doesn’t work for their agenda. Imagine it. Talk about a shoe dropping.