FDA Antibiotic Test Requirement Threatens to Cut Raw Milk Supply in Pennsylvania


Controversial antibiotic test requirements imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be going into effect next month in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), Pennsylvania will be the last state to implement the testing requirements; FDA initially issued them in 2011.1 The requirements will especially impact raw milk farmers who sell part of their production to dairy cooperatives for pasteurization as well as selling raw milk direct to the consumer or through retail stores. The main reason that the FDA testing mandate has received much more attention than in any other state is that there are more producers in Pennsylvania than any other state whose raw milk goes for both pasteurization and for direct consumption. Thanks to laws in neighboring states that either restrict or prohibit raw milk sales or distribution to consumers in both the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions rely on Pennsylvania raw milk producers for their sustenance.

The antibiotic testing requirements are that farmers producing either raw milk for pasteurization or raw milk to be manufactured into other dairy products (such as raw or pasteurized cheese) must test every batch of raw milk produced for antibiotic residue even if the producer’s dairy operation is certified organic. Producers who only produce raw milk for human consumption are not subject to the FDA testing requirement. Producers subject to the testing mandate will either have to do their own testing on equipment that could cost thousands of dollars to purchase, pay thousands each year for testing by a state-approved lab or, in the case of producers selling to a co-op, wait to get test results (milk haulers transporting milk for co-ops collect samples for testing of each batch of raw milk they pick up from a farm belonging to the co-op). Producers cannot commingle any milk from a subsequent batch until they get test results back from the co-op; further complicating matters is the fact that co-ops typically do not report test results to member farmers at all, much less on a timely basis. PDA has gotten reports of producers working with co-ops to create a process for timely reporting of test results but it remains to be seen how these efforts pan out.

Dairy Farmers of America, a co-op with a history of strong opposition to legalizing raw milk sales for human consumption, controls a substantial percentage of raw milk produced for pasteurization in Pennsylvania, possibly over one-half of the total. Trickling Springs Creamery, a well-known Pennsylvania co-op, has already notified its members that one hundred percent of their production must go to the co-op; members will not be able to retain any raw milk for retail sales or for manufacturing into any other dairy product. If a farmer selling raw milk to a co-op for pasteurization is found to violate the antibiotic testing requirements, FDA can not only stop the farmer’s shipments to the co-op, it can shut down the co-op from making any shipments in interstate commerce.

To its credit, PDA (with FDA’s approval) has established a variance process, where those dairies it grants a variance will be exempt from the antibiotic testing requirements.2 Forty farmers have applied for the variance so far; out of the sixteen applications PDA has reviewed, it has approved seven for a variance. Those eligible for the variance include those farmers that pasteurize and bottle all the raw milk they produce and those manufacturing other dairy products only from raw milk produced on their farm. Producers selling any of their raw milk production to a co-op are not eligible for a variance per order of FDA; the nine applications PDA rejected were all from those selling part of their production to a co-op.

A PDA official estimated that as many as one-half of the 68 Pennsylvania dairies permitted to produce and sell raw milk for human consumption are Grade A dairies that sell some of their milk production to a co-op. If these dairies aren’t able to make a workable arrangement with their co-ops on reporting test results, the cost of antibiotic testing could drive many to drop their permits and get out of the raw milk business when antibiotic residues in the milk was never a problem for any of them to begin with. The FDA testing requirement, in their cases, has nothing to do with protecting the public health.

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[1] Public Health Service/FDA, Appendix N Drug Residue Testing and Farm Surveillance, “Grade A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance 2015 Revision; pp. 374-379. Note: the PMO is a document governing the production distribution, and transportation of raw milk intended for pasteurization; Pennsylvania and nearly all other states have adopted the PMO and the other states must have standards at least as strict. Accessed 12/20/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/milk/ucm513508.pdf
[2] PDA Commissioner Russell Redding, Letter to Pennsylvania Milk Permitholder, 4 October 2017. Subject: Update on Implementation of Drug Residue Testing Requirements of FDA’s Appendix N of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance”

Pride & Joy Creamery Closes Down Raw Milk Operation


For the past 10 years Allen and Cheryl Voortman of Pride and Joy Creamery in Granger, Washington, have produced high quality raw milk that has benefited the health of thousands of their customers. At the beginning of 2017 Pride and Joy Creamery was one of the largest raw milk dairies in Washington, distributing their nutrient-dense product throughout the state. Long certified as a 100% grassfed organic dairy, Pride and Joy received the highest rating given by the nonprofit organic industry watchdog Cornucopia Institute to organic milk producers–a rating given only to ten other dairies in the country.

Sadly, today, Pride and Joy Creamery is out of the retail raw milk business and only produces raw milk for pasteurization. The Voortmans no longer have the herd that produced raw milk for direct consumption. Two shutdowns of the dairy engineered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) led the Voortmans to make the decision to end their raw milk operation.

In February 2017, WSDA and the Washington Department of Public Health accused the dairy’s raw milk of making two people ill with salmonella poisoning. It is not known whether public health officials tried to find any other foods the two sick individuals might have consumed in common once it was discovered that each drank the dairy’s raw milk. WSDA sent samples of the dairy’s raw milk to the state lab; while the samples were negative for salmonella, two samples were positive for shiga-toxin producing e-coli (STEC), a result the department used to pressure the Voortmans into conducting a voluntary recall of the dairy’s raw milk which ultimately resulted in the dairy being shut down for over two months. WSDA produced no evidence that the STEC it found in the milk samples was capable of making anyone sick.

In September, milk samples taken by WSDA tested positive for salmonella, eventually leading the department to suspend the dairy’s license to produce raw milk. When samples WSDA took in October were also positive for salmonella, the Voortmans shut down their raw milk operation for good rather than incur the tremendous expense it would have taken to get WSDA’s approval to start up again. Samples from the same batch of milk that the Voortmans sent to an accredited laboratory in Idaho were all negative for salmonella. During this time, there were no reports of illness caused by the consumption of raw milk. A November post on the Pride and Joy Facebook page announcing the end of the dairy’s retail raw milk business noted, “the bureaucracy, financial burden and uncertainty of this business is now too much for us.”

There is something wrong with the Washington regulatory system when one of the state’s most popular dairy is forced out of business even though its raw milk has arguably made no one sick. Pride and Joy is not the only Washington raw milk dairy to go out of business in recent months; since around the middle of the year three other dairies have turned in their permits. The four farms account for about ten percent of the total number of licensed Washington raw milk dairies.

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Photo below by Yevgeniy Novozhilov posted November 13, 2017, on the Facebook page for Pride and Joy Creamery with the comment: “Thank you Pride and Joy, for the best-tasting raw milk. My family really enjoyed it for the past several years. Will miss your products very much!”

Michael Schmidt out on Bail; Moving Forward with Appeal of Conviction


On November 22 Durham Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt was granted bail and released from serving a 60-day jail sentence pending the farmer’s appeal of a conviction for obstructing a peace officer; Schmidt posted a $2,500 bond to secure his release. Schmidt had been convicted on October 19 for the offense; subsequently, Justice Ronald Minard of the Ontario Court of justice sentenced Schmidt to sixty days in jail with time to be served over fifteen consecutive weekends. The farmer had served eight days of his sentence at the time bail was granted. Four others–Enos Martin, Robert Pinnell, George Bothwell and John Schnurr–were charged with a similar offense; Schnurr was found not guilty and charges were dropped against Martin, Pinnell and Bothwell.

The charge against Schmidt stems from an October 2, 2015, raid of his farm. Schmidt and 70 supporters were at the farm when government officials possessing a warrant were blocked from leaving the premises in a van containing equipment and dairy products. The officials left only after leaving the seized materials at the farm; multiple provincial and municipal government agencies participated in the raid.

The government obtained a warrant to search the farm on the grounds that it needed to investigate Schmidt to determine whether the farmer was violating the Ontario Milk Act. The Act prohibits the sale or distribution of raw milk for human consumption; many believe this provision only applies to raw milk sold or distributed to the general public.Schmidt only distributes milk to individuals who own shares in his farm; he distributes no milk to anyone who isn’t a shareholder.

Schmidt is appealing the conviction for the obstruction of a peace officer as well as a court ruling holding that the 23 months the case went on did not violate the speedy trial provision contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to mean that, if it takes more than 18 months between the time charges are brought and the end of trial in provincial court cases, there is an automatic presumption the delay is unreasonable. In Schmidt’s case the Justice agreed with the Crown’s argument that the presumption shouldn’t apply because there were exceptional circumstances in the case.1

A petition on Change.org to free Schmidt that drew over 7,500 signatures helped draw greater attention to the draconian sentence given the farmer who was only trying to keep the government from confiscating the private property of his shareholders; property the government arguably didn’t have jurisdiction to take. The petition noted that when tainted meat from Maple Leaf Foods was found to have killed 22 people and sickened many more in 2008, the Crown never brought charges against anyone with the company. Schmidt has produced raw milk for over 30 years; no one has ever accused him of making anyone sick.2

For the last 23 years the government has unsuccessfully tried to shut down Schmidt’s efforts to provide healthy dairy products to educated and informed consumers; its endless harassment has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and made a North American icon out of a small farmer in the process. Schmidt might not have been able to change the law but he has had a huge impact, substantially increasing the demand for and supply of raw milk since the time the government started persecuting him. There are significantly more dairy farmers in Canada today distributing raw milk through herdshare and farm-share programs; Schmidt’s decades long campaign of non-violent resistance to unjust laws has emboldened them. The situation in Canada with the prohibition on raw milk sales in all provinces is becoming more similar to the situation in the U.S. with the interstate raw milk ban; greater numbers of otherwise law abiding citizens are violating these laws with regularity. It’s time for provincial and municipal governments in Canada to acknowledge reality, leave Schmidt alone, and stop interpreting provincial raw milk laws to cover distribution to farm and dairy animal owners.

Michael and Elise Schmidt are trying to raise funds to cover the cost of his court battle. Those supporting freedom of choice are encouraged to back Schmidt’s fight by donating at GoFundMe.com/foodrights. The farmer is a little more than halfway to reaching his goal of raising $100,000.

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Top photo from Owen Sound Sun Times by Don Crosby, “Raw milk advocate Schmidt released pending obstruction appeals”, November 23, 2017. Accessed 12/1/2017 at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/11/23/raw-milk-advocate-schmidt-released-pending-obstruction-appeals

1. Don Crosby, “Raw Milk Advocate Schmidt Found Guilty of Obstruction”, The Owen Sound Sun Times, 20 October 2017. Accessed 11/30/2017 at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/10/20/raw-milk-advocate-schmidt-found-guilty-of-obstruction

2. Laura Redman, “FREE Ontario FARMER Michael Schmidt – CHANGE CANADA’s ARCHAIC RAW MILK LAW”, Change.org, November 2017. Accessed 11/30/2017 at https://www.change.org/p/kathleen-wynne-free-ontario-farmer-michael-schmidt-change-canada-s-archaic-raw-milk-law

Michael Schmidt in front of the Walkerton Court House at an earlier stage of the Obstruction trial on August 25th, 2017. [Source: The Bovine Press, “Michael Schmidt was Convicted in Walkerton Court of Obstruction”]

Raw milk activist and farmer Michael Schmidt was convicted yesterday (Oct. 19th, 2017) in Walkerton court of obstructing a peace officer. The charge arises from a raid on Glencolton Farms on October 2nd, 2015 in which investigators were prevented — by the crowds of supporters — from leaving the farm with equipment which they had seized. They were eventually allowed to leave once the equipment had been removed from the truck. Read the full post


Graphic from Facebook post by the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) shared 11/14/2017 on Glencolton Farms. Here’s the opening excerpt from that post:

Chances are slim any of you spent the weekend in jail. At 6:00 pm Friday November 10, 2017 raw milk farmer, food rights advocate and social activist Michael Schmidt entered the Central North Correctional Centre, a maximum security prison in Penetanguishene, Ontario. It is both a remand facility and one where time is served for a range of minor offenses and serious crimes. For Michael, it was the first of a 60 day “rehabilitation and deterrence” sentence to be served on weekends.

NHPPA connected with Michael before his 3 hour drive from farm to prison and asked him to send this post’s accompanying selfie. “When I was there to get processed [earlier in the week] I was asked by a guard what my obstruction of an officer was for and I just said one word, “Milk”. Then the whole high security dynamic of what they were doing suddenly changed. Other guards came up to me and said “You’re the one!” I heard a guard say “you are the most ridiculous inmate we’ve got from the government”. We had wonderful talks and a couple shared that they that they had grown up on farms and drank raw milk. It was a remarkable experience so that, in a way, I’m looking forward to going in there because of what it does. It reflects back to the intention of the government that they want to punish. And for the wrong things. At the same time it brings out exactly what’s wrong with government. I have no idea what kinds of inmates I’ll be with but it doesn’t worry me at all.”

NHPPA asked about where his younger children were told that their father was going on weekends. “The night before I had to leave we had a really exciting time! We went on the computer together and looked up all the pictures we could find of the jail. I told them, “Look, this is where I’m going to sleep, and this is where I’m going to play with the other inmates, and that’s the room where we all eat and so on”. They asked if I will get to go outside. I said, “No, no. They want to make sure that I will stay warm. There’s also a big fence around it so that no one can come in and steal Papa”. So, they were totally fine. I also told them if “they don’t clean up your rooms, then Papa can’t go to jail!” They cleaned their rooms quickly that night. It was completely turned around. It’s an excitement now. I promised I will tell them everything about how it is on the inside, and if possible, that I would take them with me next time but that they might not be let in because only Papa has done “so much work to be there.”

“All I can say about my adult children and how they feel comes from one comment from my daughter in Germany. She read that I got sentenced and that the judge had said that he has to send a warning to others and a deterrent to Mr. Schmidt that his behaviour and actions are unacceptable. My daughter wrote something like, “as if this is going to stop my dad”. So, they’re all totally fine.”

Original item posted on NHPPA Facebook page