Why Are They Doing This to Us? We’re in “Undeclared War” Over Raw Milk, Says Legal Expert

redcoats1.jpgA few readers have raised simple, innocent questions about the California assault on raw milk that boil down to this: Why are the authorities coming down do hard on a few oddballs producing and drinking unpasteurized milk?

 

“What is the big deal about people buying raw milk?…What is it that I am not comprehending?” asks Maggie in a comment on my Tuesday posting.

 

The questions are not unlike what the residents of the original thirteen colonies must have asked about their British masters. “We’re all British. Why are they imposing these crazy rules about taxation and trade on us, confiscating our guns, searching our homes?”

 

I put Maggie’s questions to Pete Kennedy, a lawyer for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a man in the middle of many of the state and federal cases involving raw milk and, as he sees it, us few oddballs are perceived as a much larger threat than we realize. “It’s like an undeclared war,” he says.

 

Here are the major underlying forces in that war:

 

Exploding demand for raw milk. While those of us who value raw milk as an essential part of a healthy diet may see ourselves as just a few oddballs, in actuality the demand is growing like wildfire. No one knows how many people consume raw milk—Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation has estimated it as upwards of half a million—but increasingly farmers who sell directly to consumers are producing at their capacity, and turning away new customers. So if you have a regular supplier of raw milk, consider yourself lucky.

 

Shifting government tactics. For many years, the federal and local authorities relied on stoking the public’s fear of disease to keep people away from raw milk—putting a damper on the demand side of the equation.

 

But as increasing numbers of people learn how remote the risks associated with drinking raw milk really are in today’s world, consumers are ignoring the authorities. Indeed, the government warnings seem only to stimulate further demand. “So instead of trying to control the demand, the government is trying to control the supply,” says Kennedy, by harassing farmers so they’ll hopefully become discouraged and go back to the pasteurization routine.

 

Federal coordination behind the scenes. Kennedy sees the latest assault against raw milk in California as part of a national effort, likely coordinated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “They’ve come up with different tactics. For a while it was listeria. Now it seems to be coliform,” with California being the latest example.

 

Another part of the assault is to push states with tight regulations on raw milk sales to crack down as raw milk producers expand. Kennedy figures the FDA monitors the Weston A. Price Foundation’s web site directory of raw milk producers, and pushes states to crack down when activity expands.


The latest example is occurring in Missouri. If you look at the realmilk section on Missouri, you’ll see there are about forty producers listed. To the FDA, this is a situation getting out of hand, so the state’s agriculture authorities have presumably been urged to get on the case.

 

Kennedy says at least half a dozen raw milk dairies have received warning letters from the Missouri State Milk Board telling them they need to obtain permits—after years of ignoring the direct-from-farm sales. But obtaining a permit requires investing significant dollars in a bottling operation, which most raw milk producers can’t afford to do.

 

These explanations of what is happening still don’t answer the underlying question: Why are they doing this to us?

 

And here, Pete doesn’t have hard answers. He suspects it comes down to economics, much as it did in Revolutionary War times, and as it does so often today. While raw milk sales are miniscule compared to pasteurized milk sales, the farmers selling raw milk are demonstrating a new dairy farming model that is very appealing to other farmers.

 

“Raw milk is the gateway to farm prosperity,” he says. Not only can the milk be sold for more than double, and sometimes triple or quadruple, the price paid by dairy cooperatives for milk to be pasteurized, the spinoff products like kefir and yogurt are even more profitable.

 

Pete suspects the situation will get worse before it gets better. He thinks other states are going  to crack down on raw milk. A key to reversing the situation will be to win a court case like that involving Barbara Smith, the New York farmer challenging the state’s crackdown on her herd ownership arrangement, and take such arrangements outside the purview of state and federal regulators. (To contribute to the legal effort, join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.) 

 

In 1776, the British empire looked every bit as formidable as the corporate-government empire that continues to tighten its grip of our food supply. The colonists eventually fought a guerrilla war to throw the bums out. We won’t take back our fundamental right to obtain the foods we want via that kind of war, but rather by another kind of guerrilla war—class action suits, court challenges, street protests, resisting farmers, and eventually by overwhelming the system with so much demand that the bureaucrats and elected officials will have to inform their corporate masters there is no choice but to back off and accept the will of the people.

10 comments to Why Are They Doing This to Us? We’re in “Undeclared War” Over Raw Milk, Says Legal Expert

  • maria
    I wondered about the real milk site being monitored. I think it should not add farms to it anymore but just have word of mouth do the job. That is how it works on OR. There are a lot more raw milk providers than he registry leads on.

    As for why, I think the fact that people are drinking raw milk despite of the warnings against it from the authorities and the health department suggests an epidemic in autonomous thinking and growing education among people. It is raw milk now, what is next? Cholesterol? I can’t wait for people to start defying that nonsene. Statin drugs. Talk about a huge industry.

  • Kirsten
    "…the farmers selling raw milk are demonstrating a new dairy farming model that is very appealing to other farmers."

    Yes! A very compelling way that works with nature instead of against it. As Pasteur said in the end "the microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything" Once the fear of every unfamiliar microbe that comes down the pike is relinquished and the whole process is embraced, you’ll make a good product. Better yet, you’ll make it without a lot of unhealthy and expensive petrochemicals in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.

    Instead of paying money and going into debt you’ll reap very good rewards by simply paying attention.

  • Steve Bemis
    I’ve been struck often about how many of the regulators who are so virulently opposed to raw milk, will say in an aside, that they drank it as a kid. What’s changed? My theory is that these very regulators KNOW how badly today’s conventional milk requires pasteurization. This means, they KNOW how different, and degraded in quality, and larger in scale, and greater in risk, are the production methods for conventionally pasteurized milk. The KNOW that this is nowhere as clean or healthy a product as the milk they drank as a kid (even years ago, and surely today, farm families who drink their own cows’ milk may very well confine their consumption to milk from the one or two "family cows" that they keep differently for their own purposes – or in other cases, their immune systems have become habituated and strengthened by the challenge of higher chronic levels of contaminants, which is why newbies should not drink what the farmer’s family can drink in such pasteurizing-production operations). In other words, these very officials could in at least one light, be seen as rightfully alarmed when they think of us drinking raw milk. Or, if they understand the differences between raw milk for pasteurization and fresh unprocessed milk ("our" raw milk), they worry that unscrupulous producers who simply want more money and consumers who don’t know what to look for, will get together with bad results. Hence, the universal remedy pops into mind: government regulation.

    If my surmise is at least partially correct, it’s possible that education of these regulators to the differences between raw milk for pasteurization and fresh unprocessed milk will help. Another approach (since no-one wants to get sick) might be to have voluntary standards (not promulgated by, and not-enforceable by regulators) set up by the raw milk producing community, so that consumers could have something to look to, particularly if they are far from the farm and/or don’t have the time to get to the farm. I should think this would be particularly important to avoid the risk that raw milk consumption becomes exclusive and unavailable to people who are more remote from the source (Mark McAfee’s size and extent of his distibution go a long way to answer this risk). Lots of businesses govern themselves with voluntary standards (you can buy a non-UL-approved appliance, but you assume a risk by doing so). The National Animal Identification System, if needed by large operators who want to export, would be fine if truly voluntary. Fresh unprocessed milk producers could, and probably should, do the same. Or not. It’s voluntary. If you are a two-cow operation and everyone in the neighborhood trusts you, then nothing is probably better than something. It’s an inherently private transaction,

    In many ways, the prejudice against raw milk parallels the prejudice against dietary fat. The "low-fat" dietary guidance, which is demonstrably bad science, has been a government recommendation for 30 years now (some will recognize me as a reader of Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes). The only difference so far, between raw milk and dietary fat, is that the government never got around to making laws against dietary fat. Lots of things are the same, though, and principally, it would seem that the government is not very good at protecting the public’s health, especially when it involves figuring out what may be good for health. People are not stupid. We can figure this out. And when we can’t (like when the government tells us that it’s a good idea to eat high-carb diets, and surpresses alternative science), the best answer seems to simply have the government admit its mistake and butt out.

  • Evelyn
    I belong to C.A.R.E.-Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Eco-Farming, as do sone of my farmers. They have standards for cleanliness and bacterial counts. This is a PRIVATE club…I pay my dues and the farmers meet the standards. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Most of the farmers will not sell to anyone who does not show their membership card. This model seems to work well……it could probably be replicated elsewhere.
  • SharonZ
    Don’t you see how it all ties together? They, being the big government, UN, WTO, etc. don’t want us to make decisions for ourselves. NAIS ties into this. They don’t want people growing their own food and really, if you were to dig down deeper into it you’d see that they don’t even want people to live in rural areas. It suits fascist governments to have the people living in the cities and having to pay high prices for bad food.

    They just passed the Thought Crimes bill. The Farm bill is going to pass with a nod to NAIS and a FOIA exemption so that an owner of livestock would not be able to find out who the original owner of the animal is. Homeland Security and USDA are doing for real time exercises for a "foreign" disease outbreak while at the same time allowing Canadian cattle over 30 months of age, the exact vector for BSE, to be imported.

    These aren’t just random issues at play here, sorry. They are acting on a plan, even if the players don’t know it.

  • Gary
    Steve, I had to laugh when I read your comment about how dairy farmers choose certain cows to get their milk from. It is true. They get their milk from corrals with the healthiest cows with the least mastitis. Employees on dairies that are still allowed to take home milk do the same thing. I have done the same thing when I worked for a large dairy as a herdsman.
  • Pete
    To control the people you must control the food. This is just the latest in a long line of battles resulting from corporate/government attempts to eliminate small farmers and control our food supply.
  • elderberryjam
    It has been known for some time that state D of A’s and the USDA have been monitoring not just the Real Milk site, but many Yahoo groups and similar forums and sites, and I am sure this blog. People report receiving letters, action, withdraw of licenses and such acts of the government frequently after public posts on forums I have belonged to. Raw milk sales have gone underground in a magical sort of way.

    What farmer in their right mind would post themselves as a source of raw milk online? What customer would admit to buying it at the legal expense of their supplier? Only the ones with money and connections do; many more won’t.

    My best friend is sheepish about even admitting to me that she buys raw milk, and never gives me a name of the seller. This is my best friend, for godsakes.

    It is definitely WAY bigger than any assessment of it, and the more they crack down, the bigger it will get. Food is freedom.

    America, if it is freedom, is food. You can’t seperate them and keep America intact. Forget food safety. Unsustainable agriculture, as Michael Pollan explained, is unsustainable. It will all fall down. Terrorism and food safety are desperate props for a failing system. If we keep our food, we might be able to save THEM when they go splat.

    Gwen

  • Michael J. "Mickey" Richard
    FEAR!

    That’s what our government has been spouting ever since: 9/11? The Cold War? Tainted Spinach? Saddam? Sputnik? The LA Immigrant Demonstrations? The Iranian Revolution? You choose, it’s always something. Keep the populace fearful and you can manipulate them like hand puppets. The few of us who tend to prefer thinking for ourselves are thought of as danger to the whole. Regulate us out of having any validity and everything is just peachy-keen!

    Ahhggg!!!

    My apologies to the choir…

  • Sylvia Gibson
    In regards to the factory farms, Is it the fact that people are wanting (I hesitate using the word demanding at this time) food products that are chemical free and natural? If the demand becomes stronger, would that force the factory farms to fade away? As there is no way they, in thier present state,could be healthy, for people or the animals.

    It seems to me, that too many people believe or expect the "powers that be" to watch out for them. I believe it isn’t us who they look out for, but the huge coorporations. $$$ is the defining factor.

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