Virginia Ag Department Clarifies Policy on Herdshares


After two consecutive legislative sessions in which unsuccessful efforts were made that would have either banned or severely restricted herd share agreements, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has clarified its policy on herd shares. In an email to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), a VDACS official stated, “The agency has currently taken a hands off approach to herd shares as long as there is a legitimate contractual relationship conveying ownership between the consuming individual and the animal/herd. Value added products such as yogurt, etc. (again in the context of a contractual relationship…) are still on the table and I’m not sure where we are going with that but the agency is not taking any action regarding those types of products at this time.”1

Herd share agreements are private contractual arrangements in which someone purchases an ownership interest in a dairy animal (or herd of dairy animals) and pays a fee to a farmer for boarding, caring for and milking the animal(s). The owner has the property right to obtain raw milk from the animal(s). It’s legal to purchase ownership in a dairy animal and it’s legal to obtain milk from a dairy animal you co-own; currently, there is nothing in the Virginia Code on herd shares. Herd share programs have been thriving in Virginia for many years.

In 2017 an amendment to a food freedom bill was introduced that would have banned herd shares; the inducement for the ban was the legalization of the regulated on-farm sale of raw milk. The Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (VICFA) and others–including the bill’s original sponsor, Nick Freitas–was successful in killing the legislation.

In 2018 opponents of herd shares–such as Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Agribusiness Council, and the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association–took a different tact; supporting the introduction of legislation in the Senate (SB 962) and the House of Delegates (HB 825) that would have officially legalized herd shares while attempting to intimidate both consumers and farmers from either entering into or continuing on with herd share agreements. Both bills required that shareholders assume joint liability if the herd or any milk produced by the herd was responsible for injury or illness; the way both bills read, giving raw milk to family or guests would be a crime. Both bills provided that violating any of the requirements in them would be first degree misdemeanors with criminal penalties of up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines; everyday the violation continued would be a separate offense. Strong grassroots mobilization led by VICFA with help from the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), FTCLDF and other organizations, carried the day; both bills died in committee.2

VDACS has long had a hands-off policy towards regulating herd share agreements but there have been reports of agency inspectors telling farmers that herd share agreements are illegal. Having a statement in writing from VDACS should help increase the sizable number of herd share programs in the state that already exist. The position of VICFA and its members has always been that the state has no jurisdiction over property rights in dairy livestock acquired through private contract, but there are others who were more hesitant to enter into herd share agreements without something in writing from VDACS on herd shares; they now have it.

In the past VDACS has been reluctant to acknowledge the legality of value-added products distributed through a herd share agreement, but recent precedent in other states shows the wisdom of VDACS current hands-off policy towards the distribution of raw dairy products other than milk.

In 2016 a Michigan court found a herd share operation not guilty of contempt for distributing butter and cream, among other product, to its shareholders; there was an injunction against the operation prohibiting it from violating Michigan’s dairy laws. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) had adopted a written policy allowing only the distribution of fluid raw milk through herd share agreements; in spite of the policy and plenty of evidence showing that other raw dairy was distributed through the herd share, the judge ruled that MDARD had not made its case that there were any violations of the state dairy laws. The case turned in favor of the herd share operation when one of its shareholders, Mike Lobsinger, successfully intervened as a party to the contempt proceeding. One of the arguments made by Lobsinger’s attorney was that, with the raw milk being his property, it was none of MDARD’s business if he had that milk processed into cream.3,4

In 2012 the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General issued an opinion finding that an “independent or partial owner of any hoofed mammal” may use a dairy product made from the milk produced by such animal for the owner’s personal consumption or other personal use.”5 Tennessee has a herd share statute recognizing that anyone who has an ownership interest in a dairy animal can use “the milk from such animal for the owner’s personal consumption or other personal use.”6 When the Tennessee Department of Agriculture claimed that the statute only allowed the distribution of raw milk and no other dairy product, State Senator Frank Niceley, the sponsor of the herd share bill that passed into law in Tennessee, sought the attorney general opinion.

Herd share programs are at the heart of Virginia’s local food system; the written statement of policy from VDACS should only strengthen that. Hopefully, it will help convince herd share opponents not to introduce legislation again in the next legislative session; if they do, the grassroots will be there once more to contest them.

[1] Email dated August 7, 2018
[2] Pete Kennedy, “Victory in Virginia – Bills Threatening Herd Shares Now Dead”, RealMilk.com, 6 February 2018. Last viewed 9/12/18 at https://www.realmilk.com/victory-virginia-bills-threatening-herd-shares-now-dead/
[3] Pete Kennedy, “Wild Day in Michigan: A Court Victory and A Raid”, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website, 13 December 2016. Last viewed 9/12/18 at https://www.farmtoconsumer.org/blog/2016/12/13/wild-day-michigan-court-victory-raid/
[4] James S. Jamo, “Opinion and Order”, MDARD v Hill High Dairy, LLC et al, File No. 15-574-CZ, 8 December 2016. [view PDF]
[5] Robert E. Cooper, Jr., “Owner’s Use of Milk and Licensing of the Sale of Eggs”, State of Tennessee Attorney General Office, Opinion No. 12-04, 13 January 2012
[6] Tennessee Statute 53-3-119

FSMA Food Safety Regs Going Local

Starting September 17, 2018, all “very small business“ (roughly defined as business with less than $1 million in annual sales1) manufacturing, processing2 or holding food must be in compliance with applicable federal regulations issued pursuant to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that govern “Current Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food.”3 These regulations break down into two different requirements: first, that the food business be in compliance with current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) and, second, that it develop and implement a food safety plan that effectively performs a hazard analysis and designs risk-based preventive controls for human food (HARPC, Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls).4

The way FDA is interpreting these regulations, many local food producers will be under FDA‘s jurisdiction and subject to inspection by the agency, possibly even including a home kitchen producing cottage foods. The biggest potential problem for local food producers is not going to be the HARPC requirements but rather the CGMP mandate.

HARPC–Who Is Exempt?
HARPC does not apply to any business manufacturing, processing, packing or holding food that is not required to register with FDA as a “food facility.” There are a number of exemptions from the registration requirements; the exemption most applicable to local food producers would be the one for “farms” and “retail food establishments.“5

“Farm” is defined, in part, as “an operation under one management in one general physical location devoted to the growing of crops, the harvesting of crops, the raising of animals (including seafood) or any combination of these activities.6 The term “farm“ also includes “packaging and labeling raw agricultural commodities when these activities do not involve additional manufacturing/processing. Farmers growing/raising and selling raw milk, eggs, raw honey7, whole fruits and vegetables8, meat from amenable species (cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and poultry)9 or any combination of the above foods would qualify as a farm and be exempt from the registration requirement. The farmer/producer selling any processed fruits and vegetables (with one exception)10, any products processed from raw milk, maple syrup11 or any meats from non-amenable species (e.g., rabbit, bison, deer, elk)12 would result in the loss of the “farm“ exemption from registration.

If the farm business doesn’t qualify as a “farm“, it can still be exempt from the registration requirement if it qualifies as a retail food establishment. A business qualifies as a retail food establishment if over half of the “annual monetary value of its sales of food products are direct to consumers.13 This would include sales of all food products sold by the farmer/artisan not just food products that the business produced.

For those not aware of the “farm” or “retail food establishment” exemption who have registered with FDA, it is recommended—if your business qualifies as a farm or retail food establishment—that you contact FDA and request that it cancel your registration. If FDA independently verifies that your business is not required to register, it will cancel your registration.14

Those registering with FDA as a food facility with less than $1 million in annual sales are eligible for a “qualified facility” exemption from the HARPC requirement.15 To obtain the exemption, eligible facilities must submit form FDA 3942a to the agency by December 17, 2018 (those facilities starting up their business after September 17, 2018, must submit the same form before beginning operations).16 According to FDA’s Outreach Info Center, form 3942a will be available September 19; currently, only a draft version of the form is in circulation.

On the form, those seeking the exemption must attest that they are a qualified facility17 (e.g., a “very small business“) and either that they “have identified the potential hazards associated with the food being produced, are implementing preventative controls to address the hazards, and are monitoring the performance of the preventative controls to ensure that such controls are effective“18 or that they are in compliance with state or other applicable non-federal laws and include evidence of regulatory oversight19 (e.g., licenses, permits). Beginning in 2020, those seeking the exemption must submit form 3942a every two years.20 Under certain circumstances, FDA can revoke the qualified facility exemption.21

CGMPs
The CGMP requirements are where FDA will directly regulate local food producers. FDA has been low-key about to whom it will apply the CGMP requirements22, but a read of the regulations indicates that FDA can apply them to local food. Unlike the HARPC requirement, small farms and local artisan producers will have no exemption from the CGMP mandate based on their revenues. Among those exempt from the CGMP are: producers exclusively under USDA jurisdiction (e.g., producing and selling only beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry products); and farms meeting the “farm” definition discussed above. It appears all, or nearly all, other local food producers will be subject to the CGMPs. According to FDA, the CGMP requirements apply even to businesses operating only in intrastate commerce.23

CGMPs are a one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme–easily subject to varying interpretation by inspectors–that contain requirements for personnel24, plants and grounds25, sanitary operations26, sanitary facilities and controls27, equipment and utensils28, processes and controls29, warehousing and distribution30, holding and distributing distribution of human food by-products for use as animal food31, and the defect action levels32. These are requirements that state legislatures should be determining but FDA wants to regulate as much food and as many food producers as possible. Value-added products are where the money is; FDA wants to have jurisdiction over all of these products, no matter how small the food producer is.

The FDA Bootstrap
As far as is known, Congress never brought up CGMPs when the Food Safety Modernization Act was under consideration but FDA took advantage of the broad power the Act gave it to issue regulations and bootstrapped the CGMP requirements into FSMA. FDA had long contended that FDA could regulate intrastate food commerce under powers granted it by the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to regulate communicable disease; it wasn’t until FSMA became law that the agency had the traction to do so (the CGMPs had their own Part in the Code of Federal Regulations, 21 CFR 110; FDA used FSMA to insert the CGMPs into Part 117 and 21 CFR 110 will be repealed on September 17, 2018).

The PHSA provides that:

    “The Surgeon General, with the approval of the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] is authorized to make and enforce such regulations as are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable disease from foreign countries into the states or possessions, or from one state or position into any other state or possession. For the purposes of carrying out and enforcing such regulations the Surgeon General may provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, distraction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.”33

That this power authorizes FDA to inspect home kitchens making cottage foods is definitely a reach. There is nothing in the PHSA or in its legislative history indicating FDA has the authority to inspect an intrastate food business when there is no credible evidence that the business is producing food under unsanitary conditions or is responsible for a foodborne illness outbreak. FDA has claimed that “due to the nationwide interrelated structure of the food industry, communicable disease may, without proper intrastate food controls, easily spread interstate.“34 That statement describes the industrial food system, not the local food system. FDA should recognize the difference between the two and leave the latter alone.

In addition to being beyond its power, enforcing the CGMPs against local food is a waste of resources if FSMA is about improving food safety. Instead of spending whatever money FDA intended to budget towards inspections of intrastate food producers, why doesn’t FDA put its resources towards areas of the food sector where there are actually food safety problems, like imported food?

There are built-in incentives for small farmers and local artisans to produce safe food; those producers are feeding the same food to their families, one product recall can put them out of business, one case of foodborne illness can put them out of business. Legislatures in nearly all states have recognized this with the passage of cottage food bills that allow the direct-from-producer-to-consumer sale of a variety of foods with little or no regulation. Four states have passed food freedom bills and other legislation that allow the unregulated sale from producer to consumer of nearly all foods other than meat. There have been few, if any, cases of foodborne illness attributed to producers operating under cottage food or food freedom laws.

Will FDA actually inspect private home kitchens to make sure that the kitchens are in compliance with applicable CGMP requirements? If there were inspections, they would likely be conducted by state agencies pursuant to a cooperative agreement with FDA. So, state legislators who voted on behalf of their constituents who want to deregulate local food transactions between consumers and producers are now being told by FDA that the same state agencies that the legislators didn’t want inspecting local food producers will now be inspecting them; this even though there is little or no evidence that Congress wanted FDA to inspect these same producers for compliance with CGMPs.

FDA might not have the resources to carry out widespread inspections of local food producers, but the threat is that FDA can create a chilling effect on local food production with a small number of inspections of small farms and cottage food operations; convincing some local food producers to get out of business while deterring others from starting up operations.

There are ways to fight against FDA’s attempt to regulate all local food production. For starters, having Congress deny FDA funding to conduct inspections of those in the food business who are not required to register with the agency as a food facility. State legislatures could also require that any FSMA cooperative agreements between state agencies and FDA exclude in the agreement inspections of businesses not required to register as food facilities. Congress could also amend FSMA to clarify that those not required to register as a food facility be exempt from the CGMP requirements. Those processing, manufacturing, packing or holding food for animal consumption not required to register with FDA don’t have to comply with the CGMP mandate35; FDA can apply the same standards to human food.

An immediate move FDA can make is to include additional kinds of manufacturing/processing under the definition of “farm”, enabling farmers to produce more value-added products while still remaining under the “farm” exemption. The agency is currently in the process of amending that definition.36

The more local food producers there are the safer food will be in this country; applying the CGMPs to small farmers and local artisan producers is a big step in the wrong direction.

Those with questions about food facility registration or exemptions from the HARPC and CGMP requirements can email Pete Kennedy at pete@realmilk.com.

—————–
FOOTNOTES

[1] The exact definition of “very small business” in 21 CFR 117.3 reads:

    Very small business means, for purposes of this part, a business (including any subsidiaries and affiliates) averaging less than $1,000,000, adjusted for inflation, per year, during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year in sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed, or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee). [bolded emphasis added]

[2] The definition of manufacturing/processing is extremely broad; 21 CFR 1.227 and 21 CFR 117.3 state the same definition:

    Manufacturing/processing means making food from one or more ingredients, or synthesizing, preparing, treating, modifying or manipulating food, including food crops or ingredients. Examples of manufacturing/processing activities include: Baking, boiling, bottling, canning, cooking, cooling, cutting, distilling, drying/dehydrating raw agricultural commodities to create a distinct commodity (such as drying/dehydrating grapes to produce raisins), evaporating, eviscerating, extracting juice, formulating, freezing, grinding, homogenizing, irradiating, labeling, milling, mixing, packaging (including modified atmosphere packaging), pasteurizing, peeling, rendering, treating to manipulate ripening, trimming, washing, or waxing. For farms and farm mixed-type facilities, manufacturing/processing does not include activities that are part of harvesting, packing, or holding. [bolded emphasis added]

[3] 21 CFR Part 117
[4] The deadline for compliance with the CGMP and HARPC requirements is September 17, 2018, for those very small businesses that manufacture, process, pack and/or hold animal food. “Very small business”, in the case of animal food, is roughly defined as those businesses with under $2.5 million in annual sales. See 21 CFR 507.3 and 21 CFR 507.5
[5] 21 USC 350d(c)(1), 21 CFR 1.226(b) and (c)
[6] 21 CFR 1.227
[7] FDA, Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition): Guidance for Industry, August 2018, pp. 10-11. Last viewed 8/30/18 at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/UCM332460.pdf
[8] Farms growing and selling vegetables could be subject to FSMA’s produce safety standards depending on their income levels and whether the vegetables are usually cooked before being consumed. See 21 CFR 112.1-112.5
[9] Meat from amenable species is not considered a raw agricultural commodity but, since it is under USDA’s jurisdiction, a farmer selling meat from amenable species the farmer raised would not cause the loss of “farm” status.
[10] “Drying/dehydrating raw agricultural commodities to create a distinct commodity (such as drying/dehydrating grapes to produce raisins), and packaging and labeling such commodities, without additional manufacturing/processing….” — from definition of “farm”, 21 CFR 1.227
[11] FDA, Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition): Guidance for Industry, August 2018, p. 9. Last viewed 8/30/18 at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/UCM332460.pdf
[12] Ibid., p. 21
[13] 21 CFR 1.227
[14] 21 CFR 1.241(c)
[15] 21 CFR 117.3 contains definitions and 21 CFR 117.5 gives greater detail about exemptions.

    Qualified facility means (when including the sales by any subsidiary; affiliate; or subsidiaries or affiliates, collectively, of any entity of which the facility is a subsidiary or affiliate) a facility that is a very small business as defined in this part, or a facility to which both of the following apply:

      (1) During the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year, the average annual monetary value of the food manufactured, processed, packed or held at such facility that is sold directly to qualified end-users (as defined in this part) during such period exceeded the average annual monetary value of the food sold by such facility to all other purchasers; and
      (2) The average annual monetary value of all food sold during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year was less than $500,000, adjusted for inflation. Qualified facility exemption means an exemption applicable to a qualified facility under § 117.5(a).

    [21 CFR 117.3, bolded emphasis added]

[16] 21 CFR 117.201(c)(2)(i)(A)(b)
[17] Applicants for the exemption must have financial records from 2016-2018 to show that they are a “very small business” as defined in 21 CFR 117.3
[18] 21 CFR 117.201(a)(2)(i)
[19] 21 CFR 117.201(a)(2)(ii)
[20] 21 CFR 117.201(c)(2)(i)(C)(ii)
[21] 21 CFR 117.251
[22] FDA states on its website, “It is important to note that applicability of the CGMPs is not dependent on whether a facility is required to register.” See “FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food” webpage. Last viewed 8/30/18 at https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/ucm334115.htm
[23] 78 FR 3646, 3651
[24] 21 CFR 117.10 – employee cleanliness and disease control
[25] 21 CFR 117.20 – plant construction, condition of the grounds
[26] 21 CFR 117.35 – general maintenance, cleaning food and non-food contact surfaces, storage of equipment and utensils
[27] 21 CFR 117.37 – water supply, plumbing, sewage disposal, toilet facilities, handwashing facilities, garbage disposal
[28] 21 CFR 117.40 – equipment design requirements
[29] 21 CFR 117.80 – operational requirements for food manufacturing, and food and ingredient storage
[30] 21 CFR 117.93 – sanitary requirements for storage and transportation of food
[31] 21 CFR 117.95 – includes requirements on containers, equipment, and labeling food by-products
[32] 21 CFR 117.110 – Defect action levels. Per 21 CFR 117.3, Defect action level means a level of a non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defect at which FDA may regard a food product ‘adulterated’ and subject to enforcement action under section 402(a)(3) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.” [bolded emphasis added]
[33] 42 USC 264(a)
[34] 78 FR 3646, 3651 citing 44 FR 23238 at 33239
[35] 21 CFR 507.5(a)
[36] Letter from FDA Commissioner Gottlieb, July 31, 2018. Last viewed 8/30/18 at
https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM615393.pdf


Photo source at top of article: Sandrine Perez. Photo source at bottom: FSMA webpage on FDA website

The Planned Destruction of the American Dairy Farmer


A public hearing was held at the Fire Hall in Lairdsville, Pennsylvania, on July 24 to voice concern over the current financial crisis facing dairy farm families throughout America–aptly termed, the economic “Dairy Depression”. Organized by Farm Women United (FWU), the event called for similar hearings to be held across the countryside to gather testimonies that “Congress itself should be gathering but refuses to do so in what is the most outrageous and blatant example of dereliction of duty by federal legislators in modern American agricultural history that is patently undermining the Constitutional rights of American family dairy farmers.” The plea is for Congress and the current Administration to intervene with a “$20 Emergency Floor Price” for milk and mandatory federal hearings to investigate and resolve the crisis.

Gerald Carlin has authorized his written testimony to be published on RealMilk.com (reproduced here by permission with minor formatting and punctuation edits). In his closing, Gerald addresses the many politicians who have failed to respond to the dairy crisis, to whom he says, “Your silence and excuses are deafening and damning.”

Testimony for the Dairy Farm Family Crisis Hearing, Lairdsville, PA

July 18, 2018

I want to thank everyone for taking time out of your busy schedules to attend this important hearing. I also want to thank my wife Tina for all of her hard work in helping to organize this hearing.

My name is Gerald Carlin. My wife Tina and I are former dairy farmers and are now raising beef cattle and vegetables on our century farm in Susquehanna County, PA.

I was asked to speak today on some of the history of events leading to this dreadful state of affairs in the dairy farming business and farming in general. The list of events is too long to cover, but I will mention some of the important ones.

In the period following the Civil War, a number of industries became monopolized including: Railroads by Vanderbilt, Oil by Rockefeller, Steel by Carnegie, and there were efforts by some to take control of agriculture. The Sherman Anti-trust Act of 1890 made monopolizing trade a felony and gave the Attorney General and US Attorneys the responsibility to prosecute those who monopolize, attempt to monopolize, or conspire with others to monopolize trade among the several states. Enforcement of Anti-trust has been lacking at best.

Farm owners are not allowed to unionize but in 1922 Congress passed the Capper-Volstead Act which enabled farmers to form marketing cooperatives to market their products as a group and to bargain for fair prices. The farmer-owned co-ops were granted special protections. As cooperatives have merged and morphed into giant corporations–distant, detached, and unaccountable to their farmer-owner members–these giant co-ops now hide behind their protections granted to them by the Capper-Volstead Act, while they abuse their farmer-owner members with immunity.

In 1937, Congress passed the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) which established the Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMO) that created equal pay for farmers through pooling within the orders to create a uniform price for milk regardless as to how the milk was used. The provision in 7 U.S.C. Section 608 (c) 18 of the 1937 AMAA mandated that the Secretary of Agriculture consider regional production costs in the raw milk pricing formula. FMMOs still exist as a result of the 1937 AMAA but the “cost of production” part has been ignored and scorned for the last 37 years.

In July 1962, the Committee for Economic Development (CED)–made up of some 200 corporate executives, economists and other distinguished experts (not one farmer)–released An Adaptive Program for Agriculture with a stated goal of reducing the farming population by one third within five years. The report complained about wasted resources in farming, particularly labor, as technology increased productivity in agriculture and the large public expenditures for vocational training for young farmers in public schools. They proposed a policy of actively discouraging young people from getting into farming as well as actively trying to coax existing farmers to exit agriculture and even proposed public funds be spent to assist farmers in moving expenses to relocate their families off of the farm.

Kenneth E. Boulding, Ag Economist with the Department of Economics at the University of Michigan and member of the research advisory board for the CED, stated the following:

The only way I know to get toothpaste out of a tube is to squeeze, and the only way to get people out of agriculture is likewise to squeeze agriculture. If the toothpaste is thin, you don’t squeeze very hard, on the other hand, if the toothpaste is thick, you have to put real pressure on it. If you can’t get people out of agriculture easily, you are going to have to do farmers severe injustice in order to solve the problem of allocation.

Although this quote does not appear in the text of An Adaptive Program for Agriculture, the sentiment is still evident. The sentiment expressed by these distinguished experts was that farmers were merely disposable pawns in an economic plan. If the inefficient farmers would just leave farming, the farmers who are left will prosper. Efficient farmers will produce food more cheaply, people will spend less money for food, leaving more disposable income to spend on consumer goods, which will cause economic growth and increase income for all, or so the theory goes. Of course, consumer food prices have continued to rise even as farmers get less and less of the retail dollar. I guess there is a fly in the ointment somewhere.

There were 1.1 million farms with dairy cows in the United States in 1964, 600,000 in 1969, and some 40,000 today; so those who are left are really prospering, right? Oh wait, they are struggling more than ever before. Obviously there are still too many. You get the point.

The official belief that there are too many farmers has grown and become entrenched in public policy evidencing itself in numerous ways, not the least of which are burdensome and senseless regulations on many fronts. Technology, including patented GMO and Terminator seeds, limits farmers’ ability to preserve seeds while increasing the power and control of corporate seed giants. Food additives extend yields of “food” with less raw product. Irradiation and Ultra-pasteurization, along with other questionable practices, ruin the real nutrition of food while extending shelf life. The list could be endless, but the goal is to put food under corporate control, with as few farmers as possible. This, of course, is called “progress”.

The belief that farmers are not important is evidenced in the attitudes and actions of both co-ops and processors as they believe that they are turning worthless raw product into something of value–(Some believe that milk has no value until it is at least pasteurized). Dairy farmers are lucky that the milk truck stops at the farm, takes the hazardous material, and actually pays them for it. No wonder farmers are strapped with paying “make allowances” to insure that the processor can make a profit, and of course, farmers have to pay the hauling charges, advertising fees, and all other appropriate fees, as a co-op or processor sees fit. Countless rural communities that rely on agriculture and provide Ag-related services have been decimated. Social impacts are obvious.

On April 26, 1971, US Secretary of Agriculture Clifford M. Hardin announced the formation of the Young Executives Committee which consisted of 15 members, each of which represented an agency of the Department of Agriculture. They were asked by the Secretary to undertake a review of the farm income question. The following is quoted from their report:

Agriculture should be viewed as an industry which consumes resources, provides employment, and produces goods of value to society. The Committee believes that national agricultural policy should aim at creating an environment which would enable the industry to provide adequate supplies of food and fiber at reasonable prices to meet domestic needs and compete in world markets. The level of farm income earned from the production of agricultural commodities, either per farm or in aggregate, should not be an end in itself. That is, the Department’s objective should not be to assure any particular level of income from farming for the nation’s farmers. Income from farming should be of concern only to the extent that it affects the level of resources attracted to the industry, and, hence, the industry’s ability to produce efficiently, adequate supplies of food and fiber. The industry should not be evaluated on its ability to provide an adequate level of living for all participants regardless of the size of their operation or managerial ability. If adequate supplies of food and fiber are being made available at reasonable prices, we should conclude that the nation has a healthy, viable agricultural industry. . . Agricultural policy should be directed toward maintaining agriculture as a viable industry and not as a way of life . . . Given these conditions, agriculture cannot and should not be expected to provide employment opportunities sufficient to preserve the nation’s rural towns and communities. If these towns and communities are to grow, additional off-farm employment opportunities must be found.

The Committee also called for the elimination of parity pricing.

In April 1973, Agricultural Trade and the Proposed Round of Multilateral Negotiations (aka the Flanigan Report) was published. This document basically sought the elimination of any and all protections and trade barriers for farmers domestically and worldwide. It was their dream and goal that eventually no country on earth would be able to offer any special protections for their farmers. Farmers would be forced to be “efficient” and would no longer be able to be such a pesky, if not powerful, lobbying force in Washington, DC, or any other country in the world. Eventually through a number of trade agreements, negotiated by “esteemed” and unaccountable experts, the farmer has essentially lost all protections and all rights to seek redress of wrongs because international trade agreements supersede farmers’ rights and domestic food policy. Politicians can throw their hands in the air and declare that there is nothing that they can do, or, as most have chosen, just ignore the concerns of farmers, because, after all, there are more important issues to deal with and more important people to talk to.

On April 1, 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that decoupled farm milk prices from parity and incrementally decreased the support price from $13.60 at that time down to $9.90 and eventually the support price was eliminated in the 2014 Farm Bill.

In 1996, the United States Congress instructed Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to reform the Federal Milk Marketing Orders. In July 1999, USDA put their order reform up for producer referendum. Only Option 1B was offered. Although many did not like 1B, the referendum passed because cooperatives like Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) used the “block voting” option. Several dairy cooperatives sought an injunction against the proposed order reform on the basis that 1B would financially harm milk producers in most of the country. In the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs versus Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, Defendant case an injunction was granted. U.S. District Judge William Sessions III did not focus on the merits of 1A vs. 1B but rather cited Dan Glickman for failure to consider dairy farmers’ cost of production. Judge Sessions made clear in his “Opinion & Order” that ”. . . this Court looks to the direct language of the statute to determine the sufficiency of the Secretary’s consideration, which makes no mention of indirect consideration being adequate in meeting the requirements of 608c(18). The record shows no direct consideration of regional costs in feed, feed availability, or other region specific economic factors.”

Judge Sessions also stated that “. . . the Court finds the Secretary’s Final Order and Decision violates Congress’ mandate under the 1937 Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) . . . “ and “. . . that Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success in their claim that the Secretary’s Final Order and Decision violates the AMAA by failing adequately to consider economic factors regarding the marketing of milk in the regional orders across the country.” Furthermore, Judge William Sessions found “. . . that the balance of hardship weighs heavily in favor of the Plaintiffs.” Judge William Sessions, III made no fewer than five references to USDA’s failure to act according to the 1937 Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act, section 608c(18). In his “Opinion and Order” statement, one such discussion spans seven pages. In late 1999, Congress instructed USDA to implement Option 1A. This satisfied the Plaintiffs, (were the Plaintiffs following the intent of the Capper-Volstead Act?) and the case was dropped without resolution of the cost of production issue.

In May 2000, USDA held hearings on Class III and IV pricing in which testimony was offered in support of implementing a cost of production factor in these formulas. In December 2000, USDA released the Tentative Decision on Proposed Amendments for Class III and IV pricing. Once again, USDA ignored the mandates of 7 U.S.C. 608 (c) 18 maintaining that the Class III and IV prices “. . . are such prices as will reflect the aforesaid factors. . .” [General Findings (b)]. This is ludicrous in light of the volatility of Class III and IV prices. However, USDA did concede that “if a sound mechanical concept could be advanced that overcomes the objections relative to supply and demand, it should be considered.”

United States Department of Agriculture issued an invitation for proposals on changing Class III and IV pricing in the summer of 2006. Approximately 40+ proposals for cost of production were submitted. National Family Farm Coalition submitted a somewhat detailed proposal to base Class III and IV pricing on a national average cost of production. In the pre-hearing, February 2006, USDA officials insisted that they do look at 608c (18) regularly and implied that they are following it. USDA turned down NFFC’s proposal. As a result, several members of the Dairy Sub-committee, particularly Arden Tewksbury and Gerald Carlin of Pro Ag, drafted legislation using the NFFC proposal as its basis. Senator Arlen Specter’s office put the draft into bill form, and it was introduced in the Senate on June 27, 2007, by Senator Arlen Specter and Senator Robert Casey, Jr. The bill is known as the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2007 or S1722. Senator Casey, who is on the Senate Agriculture Committee, was unable to get support for S1722 to become part of the Farm Bill. The Bill was reintroduced in 2009 as S889 and then after a few changes introduced again as S1645. The Bill was introduced again in 2011 as S1640.

Forward Contracting appeared in the 2002 Farm Bill as a pilot program which was to expire on December 31, 2004. The industry and lenders continue to pressure farmers to forward contract in an effort to undermine Federal Orders and secure milk at lower prices.

In late 2004, a massive investigation of DFA and Dean Foods was launched by the United State Department of Justice in conjunction with over 20 state Attorneys General. The investigation focused mostly on abusive, anti-competitive market practices in the Southeast, where farmers were paid less than minimum FMMO prices. Small co-ops were coerced, gobbled up, or controlled by DFA and farmer members were sucked into DFA and its affiliates against their will. Some 200 file boxes of evidence were reportedly collected along with scores of sworn affidavits. The investigation ground to a halt in the fall of 2006. It may have been completed by that time but no action was taken by the Department of Justice in spite of numerous calls to do so from politicians and others.

Another investigation of dairy co-op Anti-trust issues was started during the Obama administration then promptly terminated.

The 2014 Farm Bill eliminated the MILC program and Dairy Price Supports and replaced them with the failed MPP Program and the meaningless Dairy Product Donation Program.

On January 8, 2018, the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity was released, with five main objectives related to agriculture: (1) increase e-connectivity, (2) improve H-2A visa program to facilitate more H-2A work visas, (3) expand biotechnology and public acceptance of genetically modified products, (4) increase ag exports, (5) increase access to capital. No mention of farm price or consumer choice in the report.

The 2018 Farm Bill continues the globalist agenda with apparently no intention of correcting low farm product prices and bad farm policy.

On the trade front, President Nixon pushed for expanded trade with China. Ag trade surpluses were to offset trade deficits in manufactured products. This never happened.

On January 1, 1994, NAFTA went into effect. US investment went south for cheaper wages and Mexican wages actually decreased as our trade with Mexico went into deficit.

In a 1994 lame duck session of Congress, the massive General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) passed, putting more control of our economy in the hands of unelected and unaccountable people.

In 2000, the US Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, and as many predicted, our trade deficit with China exploded as companies invested in China for even cheaper labor. China has become a growing threat to our nation’s security even as we have lost our ability to produce basic necessities for our own people.

In dairy trade the United States imported far more dairy products than we exported from the late 1990s to early 2000s. The USDA has become much less transparent on dairy imports as they tout increased dairy exports. Even so, we are still importing a large amount of dairy products. The “oversupply” in dairy has been created in large part by the use of Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC), Milk Protein Isolate (MPI), and Ultra-filtered Milk (UF). I will talk more about MPC later.

So where does this leave dairy farmers? Dairy farmers have lost their equity, lost their retirement, lost their ability to pay their suppliers in a timely manner, lost their dignity, feel misunderstood, marginalized, and scorned. They have lost their next generation of dairy farmers, lost their hope, in some cases lost their marriages, and some have lost their lives. They have been scoffed at by their cooperatives and experts. They have been ignored by politicians. The list of politicians ignoring farmers is long, but to save time I will just say that not one of the 66 member of the House and Senate Ag Committees had the decency to respond to a thoughtful survey sent to them by Farm Women United (FWU). Also, Governor Wolf and Governor Cuomo have not had the decency to respond to letters sent to them by FWU. Agri-Mark was also sent letters, but they too have failed to respond. It doesn’t matter what a politician may say in private. If they do not openly and publicly declare their support for Dairy Farm Families and offer constructive solutions to this crisis, there is no other choice but to conclude that they simply do not care. If they cared, they would speak out. Further, if dairy cooperatives cared, they too would take constructive steps to solve this crisis. Your silence and excuses are deafening and damning.

We urge support for a $20 Emergency Floor Price and hearings to determine a path forward to create a sustainable future for the dairy farms that remain. Failure to act will result in the near total destruction of traditional family dairy farms as we have known them and the continued decline in access to locally produced wholesome food.

Thank you for your time and patience
Gerald Carlin, Meshoppen, PA
2 Attachments – see posted below

ATTACHMENT #1
How Much Milk is MPC/Ultra-filtered Milk Displacing

by Gerald Carlin – July 22, 2018

No one really knows how much milk MPC/Ultra-filtered Milk is displacing since the Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMO) do not collect data on MPC/Ultra-filtered Milk production and use. This is considered proprietary information. MPC and Ultra-filtered Milk are now being used in all four classes of milk products.

MPC and Ultra-filtered Milk are not approved ingredients in standardized cheeses, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has “exercised discretionary enforcement” in this area, as reiterated on August 11, 2017. FDA went further and stated, “. . . we do not intend to take action against companies that manufacture standardized cheeses and related cheese products that contain fluid Ultra-filtered Milk or fluid Ultra-filtered Non-fat Milk without declaring them in the ingredient statement, as long as their labels declare milk or non-fat milk in the ingredient statement.”

We can, however, look at cheese production compared to Class III utilization in the FMMOs and California Class 4b (cheese) utilization to gain some insight. The traditional yield factor for cheese is 10.01 lbs. per 100 lbs. of fluid milk containing 3.5% butterfat and 2.99% true protein. Higher average components may yield 11 lbs. of cheese per 100 lbs. of milk. National cheese production last year (2017) for cheese falling under Class III or California Class 4b was approximately 12.4 billion lbs. Class III utilization (weighted average) in all Federal Orders was 41%. If this rate of utilization is true nationally, the average cheese production would be 14.1 lbs. per 100 lbs. of milk. The Class 4b utilization in California for 2017 was 46.2%, making an average cheese yield of 13.66 lbs. per 100 lbs. of milk. Given this information, it seems unlikely that the national average cheese yield is less than 13.5 lbs. per 100 lbs. of milk. This translates into at least 20 billion pounds of farm milk being displaced by the use of MPC/Ultra-filtered Milk in cheese. Low-fat and Non-fat dairy products are being promoted. The fat that traditionally would go into these products is used with MPC/Ultra-filtered milk to produce substandard cheese. Much of this use violates cheese standards. How much milk is being displaced in other dairy products because of MPC/Ultra-filtered Milk? Prices are in the gutter because of a supposed 4 or 5 billion pound surplus.

How much effect does farm milk price have on retail price?

US City Retail Price
Natural Cheese August 2014 — $5.56#
Natural Cheese June 2018 — $5.23#

Ice Cream August 2014 — $4.75 ½ gal.
Ice Cream June 2018 — $4.66 ½ gal.

Whole Milk August 2014 — $3.67 gallon
Whole Milk June 2018 — $2.88 gallon

US Average FMMO Mailbox Milk Price
May 2014 — $24.37
March 2018 — $15.04

Source:
California Dairy Statistics Annual 2017
Market Summary and Utilization Report Agricultural Marketing Service
Dairy Products 2017 Summary USDA NASS
Milk cows and production by state and region NASS and ERS
Dairy Market News

The four classes of milk products are: (1) fluid milk, (2) soft dairy products like yogurt and cream, (3) cheeses, and (4) butter and dry milk products like nonfat dry milk.

ATTACHMENT #2
Thoughts Concerning Free Market in Dairy

By Gerald Carlin – May 6, 2018

In a functional free market system for dairy, dairy farmers form cooperatives to give them both bargaining power and marketing ability. The co-op would be owned by, and controlled by, its farmer-members.

Today, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is the only voice for dairy farmers in Washington, as it claims to represent some 75% of the nation’s dairy farmers. NMPF is made up of “farmer-owned” co-ops and processors who are associate members.

Let’s examine the current “benefits” of being a farmer-owner of a large modern-day co-op. The farmer-owner, hereafter referred to as owner, pays the dairy cooperative management, hereafter referred to as employees, to market the owner’s milk. The employees are not required to pay the owner the Federal minimum milk prices.

  • The owner has no right to know what the employee’s salary is.
  • The owner has no right to know where his milk is going on any given day.
  • The owner has no right to know who all of the other co-owners are.
  • The owner can lose his market if he is critical of, or even questions his employees, therefore, most owners remain silent in fear of retaliation. Employees make examples out of owners who get out of line.
  • The employees vote in Federal Order referendums without the consent of the owner.
  • The employees have been seen at Federal Order hearings trying to get more money out of the owner without the owner’s knowledge.
  • The owner has no ability to call a meeting of fellow owners.
  • The owner has no practical ability to fire an employee.
  • The employees try to dictate how the owner runs his business.
  • The employees have plenty of lobbyists at all levels of government to ensure that their control over the owners continue.

This is the unseen and untold story of “farmer-owned” co-ops.

Farm Women United Mission Statement
Farm Women United seeks to maintain a serious, honest, and open dialogue, giving a voice to farmers who are the real stewards of the earth and the foundation of any free and civilized society. Farmers produce food that sustains life. We are a culture of life. Farm Women United seeks to restore cultural respect for farmers which will result in a just and equitable value being placed on the life sustaining food which we produce and allow farmers to continue to produce food with dignity.

Visit www.farmwomenunited.org

A Tale of Two Food Systems


The International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) held its annual meeting July 8-11 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event is the world’s largest food safety conference. The IAFP meeting is where food safety professionals meet to discuss pathogens in food and ways to prevent and respond to the problems those pathogens cause. The meeting is an incubator for the one-size-fits-all food safety laws that make it more difficult for small farmers and artisan food producers to make a living. Most of the crowd at the meeting does not distinguish between the industrial food system and the local food system; the regulations the conference sets in motion are geared for industrial food production and distribution and should apply to all food production and distribution in the eyes of the majority of attendees.

Food safety is a growth industry. Globalization and deteriorating quality in the industrial food system are drivers. Over 3,500 attended this year’s meeting; FDA and USDA both sent dozens of personnel to Salt Lake City. State regulatory agencies, academia (students and faculty) and big business were all well represented at this year’s meeting. Cargill, Merck Animal Health, Smithfield, Kroger, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Walmart were all sponsors of the event.

Food safety is about the prevention of or response to cases of acute illness; there was little mention at the meeting about nutritious or nutrient-dense food and its role in the prevention of chronic disease.

A point those at the meeting frequently discussed was the complexity of long supply chains starting with the manufacturers of ingredients used by the food producer and continuing through various phases of distribution leading to the purchase of the food by the final consumer. The talk was about difficulties in traceability and ensuring safe food along the supply chain. An antidote to this problem would be to facilitate the local production and distribution of food with its short, direct supply chain, and high level of traceability but that was a solution that was seldom, if at all, brought up at the meeting.

Presentations at the meeting included talks on recent outbreaks, developments in testing for pathogens, and various food safety processes such as HACCP. At the same time the presentations are taking place, there is a trade show where vendors showcase, among other things, the latest products for testing and sanitation measures. Also present in the same location as the trade show are posters (written summaries) of studies related to food safety that are displayed for viewing by meeting attendees. Individuals who worked on the studies are present to answer questions.

Some takeaways from the meeting:

  • The FDA’s longtime plan to extend the aging requirement for raw cheese from 60 days to 90 days is alive and well. Part of the evidence for the latest push on this 90-day requirement is an FDA study on how raw gouda cheese inoculated with listeria still contained listeria after 90 days. The FDA scientists who spoke on the study at the meeting acknowledged that the raw milk used in the experiment was intended for pasteurization not direct consumption–a continuation of the agency’s refusal to recognize that raw milk for the pasteurizer and raw milk for the consumer are two different products. Two food safety professionals contacted at the meetings said privately that listeria was a bigger health threat in pasteurized cheese than it was in raw cheese. Regardless, those at the meeting overwhelmingly favor the “kill step” of pasteurization for all dairy products and for other foods.
  • A high-ranking USDA official disclosed that the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA), a division of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), has undertaken an initiative to increase inspections of small and very small plants (e.g., slaughterhouses and processing facilities); there is evidence that this initiative includes inspecting small food buyers clubs selling meat to their members. The question is why? As of 2016 there were only 150 OIEA inspectors in the whole country. Few, if any, food safety problems have been attributed to small plants and very small plants much less to small private food buyers clubs. Wouldn’t it be a more productive use of resources to have the OIEA personnel increase oversight for imported meat and large USDA facilities slaughtering 300-400 cattle an hour–where there are many more food safety problems?
  • A high-ranking FDA official spoke about the proposed merger of food regulation between USDA and FDA with the former taking over all food regulation The official said it could be a long process but did not dismiss the merger. The merger would likely be an improvement over the current situation; FDA policies on positive bacteria test results are more strict than either the USDA or European Union countries and lead to more cases of quality, safe food winding up in a landfill.
  • One of the featured speakers at the meeting supported the universal adoption of the FDA Food Code, a burdensome regulatory scheme whose cost of compliance is difficult to afford for many small farmers and local artisans producing nutrient-dense food. The late Sue Wallis, the legislator who initially introduced the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, indicated that the main reason she introduced the legislation was to get local food producers selling direct-to-consumers as far away from the requirements of the Food Code as possible. Since 2015 four states–Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah and Maine–have passed food freedom legislation allowing for the unregulated sale of food direct to consumers. As far as is known not a single foodborne illness outbreak has been attributed to a producer operating under these laws in any of the four states.
  • Bill Marler, regarded by many as the leading foodborne illness personal injury lawyer in the country, acknowledged that in his 25 years of experience he could not recall having a single client sickened by food purchased at a farmers market.
  • There was lots of discussion at the meeting about the recent outbreak attributed to the consumption of romaine lettuce where 5 people died and over 200 others became ill. It turns out that the plant which processed the lettuce was subject to the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Excessive regulation from FSMA doesn’t necessarily mean greater food safety but can mean a decline in food safety with small and midsize producers going out of business due to being unable to afford the cost of compliance.
  • Out of 50 states, 46 have signed cooperative agreements with FDA, receiving federal grant money in return for carrying out inspections to enforce FSMA’s federal produce safety. An attendee at the conference from a state public health department related how her department ran out of the federal money in carrying out a cooperative agreement with FDA and had to tap into a state general fund to get more money to finish carrying out the agreement. This is not uncommon. State agencies signing cooperative agreements with FDA should have a clause in the agreement that they do not have to carry out any further duties under it if the federal money runs out.
  • Most of the presentations and posters at the meeting had to do with industrial food but there were at least a couple exceptions that were favorable to local food. A USDA scientist did a presentation on pastured poultry reporting among other things that poultry fed a soy-free diet had substantially less campylobacter in their systems. There was a poster on the quality of raw milk for retail sale in Maine reporting on the low incidence of illness attributed to raw milk consumption in that state.
  • The atmosphere at the meeting was friendly, a good one for engaging attendees on why locally-produced food should not be regulated the same as industrial food. Most of those attending are trained that there is only one food system. One individual who worked on a poster supporting more regulation of cottage food producers was asked if she was aware of any cases of foodborne illness attributed to the consumption of cottage foods. She said no but then added that it was because cottage foods weren’t traceable. In general there are hardly any foods that are more traceable than cottage foods.

Most cases of foodborne illness are caused by industrial food; this is true even when factoring in the market share industrial food has compared to local food. Unregulated local food producers have plenty of incentive to produce safe food: their families consume the same food they are selling, one recall can put them out of business, and one case of foodborne illness can put them out of business. Food safety regulators like dealing with short supply chains and a high degree of traceability; local food producers–regulated or not–satisfy both of these parameters

When you also factor in the amount of chronic illness the local food and industrial food systems are responsible for, there is no question the local food system is responsible for fewer cases of chronic illness even when the market share of the two systems is accounted for. Take a survey on the demand those who obtain a majority of their food from the local system make for services on the medical system versus those who obtain a majority of their food from the industrial system. Policymakers should take both acute and chronic illness into consideration when crafting food regulations and legislation. The more local food producers there are the less demand there will be on the medical system for services; food freedom laws lead to more local producers.

The IAFP meeting is a place where ideas for food safety legislation are first introduced. It can also be the place where the effort begins to convince regulators that there are two food systems and that one-size-fits-all food safety regulation doesn’t work.

Food safety professionals have done a great job improving safety in areas of the industrial food system; often when dealing with multiple producers/distributors and multiple countries in an investigation–thankless work. Laws and policies contributing to an increase in local food production would make their jobs easier.

The Cost of Corporate Protection in Minnesota


Minnesota is a major power center for Big Food in the U.S.–corporate giants Cargill, General Mills, Hormel and Land O’ Lakes all have their headquarters in the state. If agribusiness had its way, there would be zero competition for the industrial food system from local food; as it is, Big Food’s allies in the state government bureaucracy enforce regulations that are more about preserving the industrial food system’s market share than protecting the public health. A great example of this would be the investigation of dairy farmer David Berglund by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

MDA began investigating Berglund five years ago and, as far as is known, is still continuing its investigation of the farmer. To date, it is estimated that MDA has spent a staggering 1.5 million dollars ($1,500,000) investigating Berglund, someone who has never had anyone file a complaint against him over the food he produces.

Berglund produces raw milk, raw butter, raw yogurt and other nutrient-dense foods at his farm in Grand Marais, up near the Canadian border, and only sells those products at his on-farm store. Dairy farming is more of a calling than a business for Berglund, he keeps the price for raw milk at five dollars ($5) per gallon to ensure that those with limited finances can still get the product.

Berglund and MDA became embroiled in a dispute over whether the department had jurisdiction to inspect his farm. There is a provision in the Minnesota Constitution that states, “Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefor.” MDA’s contention was that this provision only exempted Berglund from licensing requirements, not from other mandates (e.g., inspection) in the state food and dairy code. From 2015-2017 Berglund and MDA were in a court battle over the department’s power to inspect Lake View Natural Dairy with the courts ultimately siding with MDA.

Since that time, MDA has inspected the Berglund farm and, as far as is known, has found no violations in the farm operations. No matter–MDA will spend whatever it takes to make an example of Berglund, trying to create a chilling effect to discourage other farmers from standing up to the department over their constitutional right to sell and peddle the products of the farm.

Aside from Berglund’s claim that MDA has no jurisdiction to inspect his farm, the other issue of contention between the farmer and MDA is what products of the farm Berglund can legally sell. MDA’s position is that since Minnesota statute only allows the sale of raw milk and cream then sales of foods like raw butter and raw yogurt are illegal. The statutory ban on raw butter is an example of a law that is not about protecting the public health but rather about economic protectionism–specifically, the profits of the dairy processing industry.

The foodborne illness database of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) goes back twenty years; during that time, there has not been a single outbreak attributed to the consumption of commercially produced raw butter.

What is needed in Minnesota is for the state Supreme Court to revisit its 2005 ruling in Hartmann v. Minnesota. In that case the court ruled that the constitutional provision on selling and peddling the products of the farm only exempts farmers from licensing, not from other regulatory requirements such as inspection and that farmers could only sell foods whose sale was allowed by statute. The Hartmann ruling ignored the historical context of the constitutional amendment which passed in 1906. At the time the amendment passed, the state did not inspect or otherwise regulate farms; the licensing requirements the amendment prohibited were intended to raise revenue, not to regulate farms. In 1906 all raw dairy products were legal products of the farm; what the Hartmann court did in holding a food like raw butter was illegal to sell was to say that a statute controlled over the constitution–an interpretation of the law that had it backwards.

One farmer looking to have the Minnesota Supreme Court take a second look at the Hartmann decision is Mike Hartmann himself. If MDA has spent $1.5 million investigating Berglund, it has spent at least several times that on the Hartmann case. Since 2000 MDA has at various times raided Hartmann’s farm, his vehicle, his dropsites, harassed his customers, seized food and equipment, brought a court action to destroy Hartmann’s food and had criminal charges brought against him. On two different occasions a court has ruled that MDA seized property and equipment from Hartmann through an illegal search and seizure.

Hartmann is currently suing MDA and individual MDA officials for, among other remedies, return of seized equipment, damages for seized food, damages for violations of Hartmann’s state and federal constitutional rights, and a court order enjoining “the state from interfering with the private transaction between Hartmann and his consumers for the sale and exchange of products of the farm.” The amount of money the state of Minnesota has spent on the Hartmann case will continue to increase.

The corollary of the state constitutional right to sell and peddle the products of the farm is the right of consumers to obtain those products. MDA and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently spent taxpayer money interfering with that right when they raided the private food buyers club, the Uptown Locavore, on May 3 embargoing thousands of dollars of nutritious food produced by local farmers; MDH still has not made a decision on how it will dispose of the embargoed food. State law requires that a government agency either petition a court to destroy the embargoed food or release the food; unfortunately, the law does not impose a time limit on an agency to make this decision. The lack of a statutory deadline enables the bureaucracy to, in effect, condemn food without a court order, waiting until a food’s “shelf life” has expired before making its decision. Raw milk embargoed by MDH at the Locavore went bad a long time ago.

Raid in Minnesota – Food Police Protecting People from Themselves, Again

MDA’s enforcement actions against the distribution of locally produced nutrient-dense food when there have been no complaints amounts to a form of corporate welfare for agribusiness. Unless there is a legitimate accusation about the distribution of adulterated food, MDA would do better to save the taxpayers money and honor food freedom of choice.

Joel Salatin: Whole Milk Illegal in Schools — Say What?

Posted here by permission from Joel Salatin. Originally published at TheLunaticFarmer.com on June 13, 2018.

After writing about the dairy debacle a few days ago (half of dairy farmers will go out of business if current trends–price and consumption–continue) a reader named Pegi sent me a wonderful email. Here it is:

    One of the factors leading to reduced milk consumption is the USDA. They make the rules for the school lunch program. Children are given skim or 1% milk, which is frequently handled poorly, and told “This is milk. It is good for you. Drink it.” Who on earth would want to drink that crap? Then they add chocolate and sugar to it and complain of its being fattening.

    WIC only allows 1% milk. And the USDA insists that this is healthy!

    I can understand pasteurizing milk that is sold in schools, but at least whole milk would be palatable!

    HR 5640 would allow the sale of unflavored milk in school lunch. Please urge people to support it.

So I checked into HR 5640. It has been introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and is titled The Whole Milk Act. Currently it’s in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Right now the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act prescribes “unflavored fluid milk” as a legal substance for schools that participate in the school lunch program. Due to Dietary Guidelines interpretations, that can only be 1 percent milk (skim milk).

Marino’s amendment would change the wording in the school lunch program to allow “unflavored whole milk.” By changing the word “fluid” to “whole” it would allow the kidos to drink full fat, brain-feeding, nutrient-dense whole milk.

Thank you, Pegi, for pointing out something I did not know–that it is ILLEGAL for our school lunch program to offer whole milk. How absurd is that? In Europe, they drink RAW (unpasteurized) WHOLE milk. That’s why they’re all dying over there and why everyone is fat. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Which leads me to say, the best thing you can do for your little one, if he/she is in a school lunch program school, is to send them with their own lunch, including raw whole milk. These issues have two response points. One is to urge passage of this bill. The second is to make the whole thing irrelevant by sending integrity food to school with your little one. Let’s do both.

What do you send in your child’s lunch box?

Popular Tennessee Herd Share Dairy Shuts Down


On June 14 the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) lifted a directive it had given Knoxville dairy French Broad Farm nine days earlier to stop distributing raw milk to its shareholders. In Tennessee the distribution of raw milk through herd share agreements is legal by statute. The department had issued the directive because it suspected the dairy was responsible for seven cases (all children) of illnesses caused by the pathogen E. coli O157:H7. The dairy had complied with KCHD’s request and had stopped distributing raw milk on June 5.

The ordeal of the investigation has led the owners of French Broad Farm, Earl and Cheri Cruze, to shut down their herd share operation, a huge loss for the local food community in the Knoxville area. Earl Cruze, 75 years young, has milked cows for 68 years and has always been the only milker for the herd share. Raw milk drinkers in the metro Knoxville area are now out a source of their sustenance.

The department decided to lift the directive, in part, because according to County Health Director Martha Buchanan, “there is no ongoing transmission” of E. coli; the last illness KCHD connected to the dairy occurred on June 3. Buchanan indicated that the department believed that French Broad Farm was the source of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that sickened seven children that drank raw milk the farm produced. Interestingly, at the same time the department was investigating the dairy, it had also determined that at least four children had become ill through E. coli O157:H7 poisoning at a daycare center through direct or indirect contact with farm animals. KCHD’s investigation found no connection between the dairy and the daycare center.

What Buchanan or anyone else with KCHD never did explain was why there were no test results from milk and manure samples the department had collected from the farm over a week earlier. KCHD had gone to the farm to take milk samples on June 5 and manure samples on June 6. In addition, the department also collected an unopened container and opened container of raw milk that were produced on the suspect batch dates of May 24 and May 25.

KCHD originally sent the samples to a Tennessee lab but then on June 11 had them transferred to a more sophisticated laboratory in Iowa.

It only takes lab technicians 48 hours to make a preliminary determination on whether a sample is positive for E. coli O157:H7. Typically, if a sample is positive, a health department or other agency will issue a press release announcing the positive test and will continue with its order prohibiting the producer from distributing the suspect food. The likelihood was that all tests the Tennessee and Iowa labs took of the milk and manure samples were negative for E. coli O157:H7; it’s possible that the department didn’t announce any test results because the Iowa lab was still running tests to find e. coli.

Campylobacter, the pathogen most commonly responsible for outbreaks of foodborne illness attributed to raw milk is rarely found in samples tested in a lab; campylobacter grows and disappears quickly. E.coli, including E. coli O157:H7, is different; e. coli will often continue to grow after a sample is taken to a lab for testing. As a result it would be more likely to have a positive test result for e-coli than campylobacter. While all negative test results wouldn’t necessarily clear French Broad Farm of blame for the illnesses, they are evidence that the dairy is not responsible for the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. The more negative tests the Tennessee and Iowa labs have the greater the evidence the dairy is not responsible for the illnesses. Buchanan did say the department looked for other commonalities among the sick children such as ground beef consumption and swimming pool usage but there are possibly other common activities among the seven children KCHD is unaware of.

Something to look at would be the multi-state foodborne illness outbreak this spring attributed to romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. There have been five deaths and nearly 200 illnesses in the U.S. blamed on romaine lettuce consumption, including at least three illnesses in Tennessee. From May 16 to June 1, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified an additional 25 cases of illness it blamed on romaine lettuce. Reports are that there is a high level of secondary transmissions from the outbreak.

Earl Cruze ran a Grade A operation, Cruze Farm Dairy, for over thirty years. Cruze Farm Dairy is a completely separate operation from French Broad Farm and is now run by Cruze’s daughter Colleen Cruze Bhatti and son-in-law Manjit Bhatti.

The Tennessee herd share law went into effect in 2009. Since that time, herd share programs have thrived in the state; hundreds of dairies have operated herd shares at one time or another in Tennessee. The French Broad Farm investigation marks the second time herd share operations have been blamed for a foodborne illness outbreak in the state.

It’s Time To Put Our Federal Meat Inspection Law Out To Pasture

Outdated regulations are hampering the beef meat industry.

Written by Baylen Linniken. Originally published May 19, 2018, by Reason.com online magazine. Baylen Linnekin is a food lawyer, scholar, and adjunct law professor. He’s the author of Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable (Island Press 2016). Linnekin serves on the board of directors of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Last week, Sens. Mike Rounds (R-N.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced a bill that would allow meat processed in many state-inspected slaughterhouses and other state-inspected facilities to be sold across state lines.

The sensible bill, dubbed the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, could be a real boon to livestock farmers who want to sell their meat and meat products in neighboring states, and to the consumers who want their products.

Before you get your hopes up, though, consider that this under-the-radar, bipartisan bill has been around in some form or other for more than fifteen years. Then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) introduced similar legislation in 2000. Then-U.S. Representative (now Senator) Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) sponsored a version of the bill in 2006. A year later, then-Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) introduced the bill.

Yet the ban on interstate sales persists. That’s despite the fact it’s got broad support.

“The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act of 2018 will strengthen local economies by allowing meat and poultry products inspected under State meat inspection programs to be sold across state lines,” said Kenny Graner, president of the United States Cattlemen’s Association, earlier this month. “This opens access to new markets that were previously unavailable due to outdated federal regulations.”

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association also supports the bill. State agriculture departments have long been on board. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is, too. A 2001 study by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, which attempted to identify differences between states that operate their own inspection regimes and those states that do not, noted the USDA “officially endorses legislation to permit interstate commerce for state-inspected meat.”

So just what is the holdup? The status quo appears to be largely the result of a powerful, lousy law colliding with lazy lawmakers in Washington.

Since the late 1960s, as I’ve lamented several times here and in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, the USDA has required any animals and their meat that will be sold commercially to be slaughtered and processed in USDA-inspected facilities or in state facilities that are “at least equal to” the USDA facilities (a requirement known, artfully, as the “‘equal to’ requirement”).

That requirement is part of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967, which applies both to interstate and intrastate sales. Practically, it means that if a local farmer wants to sell you (or a local restaurant) a pound of ground beef, he or she must have the beef processed in a facility that complies with the federal law.

The law, as it applies to wholly intrastate sales—as in the burger example—is unconstitutional. As I’ve noted before, by passing the Wholesome Meat Act, Congress delegated to the USDA a power Congress itself does not possess: to regulate wholly intrastate commerce.

On the other hand, as I noted in an op-ed in The Hill last week, Congress clearly has the power under the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce. But the fact a law is constitutional doesn’t make it smart policy. For example, under the Wholesome Meat Act, a steak from a cow that was inspected in a state facility (operated in more than half of U.S. states) that follows regulations at least as stringent as those required under federal law in, say, South Dakota, can be sold anywhere in the state but can’t be sold just across the border in Minnesota.

A program created under the 2008 Farm Bill, known as Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) Program, was supposed to alleviate the problem. But CIS has been unpopular for a variety of reasons.

First, it took years to implement. And once it was implemented, problems were immediately apparent. “The Cooperative Inspection Program is cumbersome, requires the entire state to apply to participate before individual plants that meet certain conditions can apply, and contains other provisions that appear to have dissuaded both states and plants from signing up,” reads a 2013 article in the Vermont Law Review.

According to Sen. Rounds, the bill co-sponsor, only four states so far have embraced the CIS model.

“It really is past time to just say that people can sell anywhere in the country under state inspection,” says Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, in an email to me this week. “[E]ither that, or stop requiring that state inspection be equal to federal. Either it is equal or it’s not!”

Raid in Minnesota – Food Police Protecting People from Themselves, Again

In the continuation of an eight-year government assault on freedom of food choice, officials from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Minneapolis Department of Health (MDH) and city police have shut down the physical location for the private buyers club, Uptown Locavore, embargoing thousands of dollars of nutrient-dense food in the process including raw dairy products and grassfed meats. The Locavore connects farmers and club members, enabling consumers to obtain foods they would not be able to purchase at a retail store.

On May 3rd MDA and MDH officials along with a police officer executed an administrative search warrant to inspect the property that served as a distribution point for the buyers club; the official’s visit turned into more than just an inspection. The officials embargoed every food product they came across, including the personal food items of Will Winter, longtime leader in the Twin Cities local food community and owner/manager of the locavore. The embargo notices MDH left at the location stated that the buyers club could not conduct business until “conditions set forth are met and the embargo is lifted.”

City officials also posted an “Unlicensed Business” notice on the property stating that the Uptown Locavore is unlicensed and that “further operation of this business is a criminal act and subject to criminal complaint and/or arrest.” The ‘catch-22’ for the Uptown Locavore was that, if it did get licensed, it would not be able to provide many of the nutritious foods it currently makes available to club members.

Winter responded to the enforcement action by going to the media to get out his side of the story. He pointed out that the search warrant was given by a judge to merely determine whether the buyers club was operating an unlicensed business; nothing was mentioned in the warrant application about confiscating food or shutting down the Locavore. Winter explained to the media that his private club should not have to obtain a business license because it does not sell or distribute any food to the general public; his location is not open to the public but only to club members.

Winter remarked that all transactions were between consenting adults and were done between a farmer/artisan producer and informed consumers. He emphasized that there had been zero complaints about the Locavore. He commented that the government “instead of using their resources to pursue real criminals and real crime….waste their day trying to destroy people they don’t understand and then seem to hate….this unjustified persecution of people doing the right things makes me very unhappy to be American.”


The May 3 raid wasn’t the first time the food police had shut down a private food distribution facility established by Winter. In 2010 state and city officials raided and permanently shut down the Traditional Foods Warehouse in Minneapolis, a devastating loss for the local food community. The Traditional Foods Warehouse had rapidly become an institution in the Twin Cities; at one time it boasted 1,800 members. There has never really been anything like it anywhere in the U.S. before or since its demise.

2010 also was the year MDA stepped up its enforcement campaign against famers distributing to informed consumers nutrient-dense foods that the department claimed were “illegal”, targeting dairy farmer Mike Hartmann and poultry farmer Alvin Schlangen. MDA raided both farmers in 2010 and subsequently had both criminally prosecuted.

MDA went after Hartmann because it suspected dairy products the farmer produced were responsible for eight cases of foodborne illness in the Twin Cities area. The state’s initial testing indicated there was a match between the pathogenic bacteria responsible for the illnesses and bacteria found on the Hartmann farm but the Minnesota Department of Health did many subsequent tests to strengthen its assertion that Hartmann farm dairy products were the cause of the illness; there was no match in any of these tests.

Hartmann pled guilty to two charges of violating the Minnesota food and dairy code but only to stop MDA from criminally prosecuting his wife as well as a 68-year-old woman on disability who was helping his farm. The lowest point in MDA’s enforcement tactics came when two MDA officials, three plainclothes policemen and two Bloomfield city officials executed a search warrant at the private residence of Rae Lynn Sandvig whose driveway served as a dropsite for Hartmann. The policemen met Sandvig at her bedroom door shortly after 8 a.m. telling her to go downstairs to her kitchen. Policemen went into the bedroom of Sandvig’s children ordering them to do the same. When Sandvig arrived in her kitchen she found the two MDA officials and the two city employees peering into the family’s refrigerator; the family kept no foods from Hartmann’s farm in their refrigerator or freezer other than those for personal consumption. MDA considered prosecuting Sandvig but subsequently dropped her case.

MDA had prosecuted Schlangen twice for criminal violations of the state food and dairy code; in the prosecution putting his livelihood at stake, a jury acquitted him of all charges. Hartmann and Schlangen remain in business continuing to provide nutritious food to informed consumers.

Hartmann is suing MDA over an illegal search and seizure the department conducted on his delivery truck during a 2013 stop on a Minneapolis highway; the department confiscated dairy products and equipment during the raid.

For the past five years MDA has been investigating Dave Berglund, a dairy farmer in northern Minnesota who sells raw milk and other dairy products to his loyal customers on his farm in Grand Marais. Berglund concluded a long court battle against MDA last year, with the courts ruling that the department had jurisdiction to inspect his farm. Berglund is contending he has a right under the state and federal constitutions to sell a product like raw butter direct to consumers while the department is claiming those sales are illegal. MDA’s investigation of Berglund appears to be continuing.

The Minnesota state constitution has a provision allowing farmers to “sell and peddle the products of the farm” without licensing. The constitutional provision should include the distribution of farm products through a private buyers club like the Uptown Locavore that facilitates farmer-to-consumer commerce. Regardless of how MDA interprets the law, what it and other government agencies cannot escape is the fact that eight years of heavy handed enforcement hasn’t deterred consumers from seeking healthy food that the state declares is illegal. People continue to demand food from farmers like Hartmann, Schlangen and Berglund; they continue to join buyers clubs like Winter’s Uptown Locavore to have access to quality food they cannot find in retail stores.

Increasingly greater numbers of consumers want to opt out of the industrial food-vaccine-pharmaceutical drug paradigm. If these enforcement actions against real food are all about protecting the public health, here’s a challenge to the state and local government agencies in Minnesota who are harassing Winter: do a survey of Uptown Locavore members and then do a survey of other random people to determine what each group demands in terms of medical services (e.g., doctor visits, prescription drug use, etc.). Government officials would find that the buyers club members demand much less in the way of medical services, saving the taxpayers and insurance companies money. The state of Minnesota could be sending the savings on expanding farm-to-school programs but instead spends millions persecuting those who are making people healthier.


The government should be honoring Winter instead of dumping food confiscated at the Uptown Locavore into a landfill. It should recognize farmers like Berglund, Hartmann and Schlangen as frontline healers instead of trying to shut them down. This is about control and preserving industrial Ag’s market share by denying freedom of choice. MDA can recognize this freedom by exercising its enforcement discretion not to take action against people like Winter who are actually helping to make others well. One day there will be a court ruling affirming that there is a legal distinction between the public and private distribution of food. Until that time MDA and the other agencies can best protect and promote the public health by allowing people to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice regardless of whether that source is regulated by the government.

A good way to begin the departure from the failed policies of the past would be for the Minneapolis Health Department to lift the embargo on the food at the Uptown Locavore and allow the buyers club to resume operations. Unfortunately, Daniel Huff, an official for the department has indicated the city will seek a condemnation order to destroy the dairy products embargoed at the Locavore. Short of a legitimate accusation against the club of the food being responsible for foodborne illness, Winter and its members should have the right to be left alone.

High Stakes for Raw Milk in Wisconsin

This article is a collaboration between the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF).

Wisconsin organic dairy farmer Chaz Self is a face of the crisis confronting milk producers across the country. Self’s cooperative recently dropped him as a member, leaving him scrambling to find another buyer for the milk his farm, Grassway Organics, produces. Self could be making up for some of the lost sales by selling raw milk; Wisconsin law allows the sale of raw milk on an “incidental basis.” The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) could be helping farmers like Self by using its enforcement discretion to let him sell raw milk. DATCP, however, recently served the farmer with a summary special order threatening the loss of his Grade A Milk Permit if he sold any raw milk for human consumption.

The farmer is currently dumping hundreds of gallons of high quality raw milk. Self’s case provides a great look at the unprecedented emergency dairy farmers are facing and how selling raw milk is a potential way to help keep thousands of them in business.

Self maintains a herd of around 100 cows on a 400-acre farm where he lives with his wife Megan and their three young children. His Jersey herd is 100% A2. The Selfs sell poultry, eggs, pork and beef to their customers on the farm and at farmers markets.


Last year Self appeared in the Netflix documentary, Rotten, a series of episodes uncovering fraud and corruption in the industrial food system. Self appeared in the episode “Milk Money” which discussed the production and sale of raw milk. Self never stated that he sold raw milk but the narrator of the episode implied that he did. Shortly after the episode aired, DATCP started investigating Self; the investigation wound up with the department issuing an order allowing him to keep his Grade A permit on the condition that he stop selling raw milk. This was an unjustified move, given that DATCP based its decision solely on what the narrator said he was doing; there was no other evidence mentioned in the order about Self selling raw milk.

To compound matters, on April 1 Self’s cooperative, Westby Creamery, terminated his membership; on April 18 DATCP sent Self a “notice of deadline to change assigned dairy plant”, stating the farmer has until April 30 to find a processor to pick up his milk. If he fails to do so, DATCP will revoke his Grade A permit; with the current state of the dairy industry, that is not an easy task.

The American dairy sector has been in a decades-long decline that is currently accelerating. In 1992 there were 131,535 licensed dairies in the U.S., at the end of 2017 there were 40,219.1 The number of dairies closing shop has increased substantially since the beginning of the year. In 1992 the average herd size for farms was 74 cows; by 2017 it had risen to 2342, showing the consolidation in the dairy industry and the exit of small farms from the commodity milk system.

Wisconsin went from about 29,000 dairy farms in 1995 to a little over 9,000 at the end of last year.1 Two particular recent developments have accelerated the decline of conventional and organic dairies in Wisconsin. First, more conventional milk is being shipped into Wisconsin from other states. In 2017 more than 100 trailer loads of milk per day3 was coming into Wisconsin from states such as Michigan, Indiana and Ohio; frequently this milk was being sold more cheaply than the price sellers of conventional fluid milk would normally get.

Secondly, this year certified organic CAFO dairies in Texas have increased shipments of milk to Wisconsin. According to a USA Today March 24 story by a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer, six certified organic dairy farms in Texas produced about 23% more milk than all of Wisconsin’s 453 organic dairy farms combined in 2016.4 The greater supply of organic milk has led to more quotas for producers and co-ops cutting back on members; in addition to Self, Westby Creamery recently terminated the contracts of seven other members.

The commodity milk system is becoming more untenable than ever for small farms. Recent prices around the country for conventional milk have been as low as $1.11 per gallon; while there are some organic producers that are still doing well, prices overall have declined substantially for organic milk. Farmers wanting to sell cows are finding little or no market. Oversupply and lower pay prices mean a race to the bottom for commodity milk.

One way for producers to escape or survive the commodity milk system is to sell raw milk for direct consumption; prices farmers can get for raw milk sales to the consumer are much higher than what they can receive for either conventional or organic milk intended for pasteurization. In Wisconsin the law is there for dairies to sell raw milk and improve their bottom line; the problem has been DATCP and its interpretation of what an “incidental sale” is.

The legislature passed the incidental sale law in 1957. The original intent of the law was that any sale of raw milk for human consumption was an incidental sale. At the time the law went into effect, there were over 100,000 dairies selling raw milk intended for pasteurization in the state 5; for all of them, sales of raw milk for direct human consumption were likely a very small percentage of total sales.

At one time DATCP interpreted the incidental sales law as meaning only one sale of raw milk per customer ever. In 2008 the department changed that, issuing a regulation that stated, “a sale is not incidental if it is made in the regular course of business, or is preceded by any advertising, or solicitation made to the general public through any communications media.” There is nothing in the statute legalizing incidental sales that prohibits advertising or solicitation.

DATCP’s interpretation of “not in the regular course of business” has been unfavorable to raw milk producers and consumers. It’s time for that to change; America’s Dairy Land is in an emergency situation. Dairies are going out of business every day in the state. DATCP can help Wisconsin dairy farms by either adopting a more liberal interpretation of what constitutes “not in the regular course of business” or by waiving enforcement against dairies selling raw milk direct to consumers in the regular course of business. For precedent on the latter step, DATCP only needs to look at the bordering state of Michigan.

Michigan law prohibits the sale or distribution of raw milk for human consumption; nevertheless in 2013 the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) adopted a written policy in which it would not take action against dairy farms distributing raw milk through herdshare agreements. MDARD set parameters that had to be in place, such as a written contract between the farmer and consumer for it to waive enforcement; DATCP could take a similar tact in Wisconsin.

DATCP is charged with promoting Wisconsin agriculture; one way it can do that with the current dairy crisis is to change its enforcement or interpretation of the law to one that benefits raw milk producers and consumers. Producers like Chaz Self have the quality raw milk and the potential demand to succeed. DATCP shouldn’t be preventing Self from selling raw milk. DATCP has an opportunity to help dairy farms stay in business. Ultimately, it would be great to pass a bill taking the word “incidental” out of the Wisconsin raw milk statute; but with the accelerated decline dairy is going through, there is no time to waste. The department should either adopt a new interpretation of the raw milk law or exercise its enforcement discretion now.

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[1] Dennis Halladay, “Here it comes: less than 40,000 dairies”, Hoard’s Dairyman, March 19, 2018. Last viewed 4/25/2018 at https://hoards.com/article-22818-here-it-comes-less-than-40000-dairies.html

[2] Corey Geiger, “Dairy farm numbers hover near 40,000”, Hoard’s Dairyman, February 26, 2018. Last viewed 4/25/18 at
https://hoards.com/article-22687-dairy-farm-numbers-hover-near-40000.html

[3] Pete Hardin, “March Dairy Meetings Somber in Wisconsin…”, Milkweed, Issue No. 465, April 2018; p. 5. [Wisconsin Farmers Union, “How Does It Work, and Would it Work Here?”, Dairy Supply Mgmt. in Canada, meeting 15 March 2018 at Dodger Bowl Banquet Center, Dodgerville, WI, recorded by www.wiseye.org; last viewed 4/25/2018 at http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/12277]

[4] Rick Barrett, “Wisconsin’s small organic dairies squeezed by Texas mega-farms”, USA Today, March 24, 2018. Last viewed 4/25/2018 at https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2018/03/24/wisconsins-small-organic-dairies-squeezed-texas-mega-farms/455330002/

[5] U.S. Department of Commerce, “County Table 10 – Dairy products and poultry and poultry products sold from farms: Censuses of 1959 and 1954”, U.S. Census of Agriculture: 1959, Volume 1, Part 14: Wisconsin (Chapter B – Statistics for Counties), p. 163. Last viewed 4/25/2018 at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/AgCensusImages/1959/01/14/866/Table-10.pdf


Photo courtesy of Grassway Organics LLC facebook page