Richard Hebron, MichiganAugust 1, 2007
Harassment of Raw Milk Farmers in Pennsylvania and New YorkAugust 12, 2007
The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) is held every other year in odd numbered years. See their website at: ncims.org.
The 32nd National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) met in Orlando from April 17 through 22. NCIMS meets every other year to update the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), the model milk regulation adopted by almost all of the States governing the processing, packaging and sale of milk and milk products. Section 9 of the PMO stipulates that only pasteurized milk can be sold to the final consumer.
At the 2007 conference, a proposal was introduced to amend Section 9 to establish that “no dairy animal sharing or similar programs would be allowed as a way to bypass the intent of Section 9.” Passage of the proposal could have potentially meant a ban on herdshares in a majority of the States. The proposal did not have much support; so, instead of taking a vote, a study committee was formed “to look into means to prevent animal/herd shares and other practices used to circumvent food safety regulations.” The committee was to present its report at the 2009 conference.
When the Herd Shares Committee meeting was held at the 2009 conference, the committee did not give a report and instead indicated that it would no longer pursue any attempt to prohibit herdshares. One committee member stated that the NCIMS conference had jurisdiction over pasteurized milk not raw milk. It appeared that the majority of delegates at the conference held this view and did not want to take a position on herdshares, leaving the issue for individual States to decide. The likelihood is that NCIMS will not consider the herdshare issue again, removing a potential threat to raw milk distribution throughout the country.
The one order of business the Herd Shares Committee did have on its agenda was to hear Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Company (OPDC) give a presentation on amending the federal regulation banning raw milk for human consumption in interstate commerce (CFR 1240.61). Mark has filed a petition with the FDA to amend CFR 1240.61 to allow for shipment of raw milk across state lines from one State where the sale of raw milk is legal to another State where the sale is also legal. Mark had submitted a proposal to NCIMS asking the conference delegates to pass a resolution supporting the FDA petition. McAfee knew his proposal had little chance of passing, but introduced it with the hope of starting a dialogue with the regulators and dairy industry representatives attending the conference. In this, he succeeded. While the Herd Shares Committee voted not to support his proposal, a number of State regulators and industry representatives interested in finding out more about OPDC’s raw milk business approached him during the conference.
However, one group of attendees who refused to speak with McAfee about raw
milk were the representatives from FDA, maintaining the agency’s policy of not talking to anyone with an opposing viewpoint on raw milk.
The FDA has used NCIMS in the past as a platform to press for a total ban on the sale of raw milk. With NCIMS dropping the herdshare issue and the support among State regulators for NCIMS and the PMO to focus solely on pasteurized milk, we can hope that there will be greater resistance if FDA continues to push individual States to either ban the sale of raw milk or to make access to it more difficult.
The 31st National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments was held May 5-10, 2007 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The main purpose of the conference is for the delegates (dairy officials from each of the fifty states) to the general assembly of the NCIMS to deliberate and vote on proposals submitted to it; proposals which have passed can result in amendments to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), the model milk sanitation regulation governing the interstate shipment of milk and milk products. Nearly all states have adopted the PMO as law to govern the intrastate shipment of milk and milk products as well. There was a proposal to the 2007 conference to expand the PMO’s ban on the sale of raw milk to include any dairy animal share program. If the amendment had passed, any state adopting the most current revision of the PMO would have effectively made cow shares illegal if their state law were silent on the issue. Only a handful of states have laws directly addressing the validity of cow shares.
Fortunately, the support was not there for the proposal to pass; and its proponents submitted a substitute proposal calling for a study committee “to look into means to prevent animal/herd shares and other practices used to circumvent food safety regulations.” This proposal passed and the study committee will report its findings at the 2009 NCIMS. One state dairy official at the conference stated that she believed there would never be enough votes to pass a cow share ban a any future NCIMS.
The 30th National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) took place May 12-17 in Columbus, Ohio. According to the NCIMS website (www.ncims.org), the main purpose of the conference “is to deliberate proposals submitted by various individuals from state or local regulatory agencies, FDA, USDA, producers, processors, consumers, etc. who have an interest in ensuring that the dairy products we consume are safe.”
Delegates (dairy officials from each of the 50 states) to the general assembly of the NCIMS vote on many of these proposals, which if passed, can eventually result in changes to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, the model regulation governing the interstate shipment of milk and milk products. In addition, the delegates to the general assembly have the power to pass resolutions regarding the opinions and intentions of the NCIMS on dairy safety issues.
At the Columbus conference the delegates passed a resolution addressing the consumption of raw milk. Resolution 10 recognizes “increased interest, nationwide, in the consumption of raw milk” and repeats the various industry concerns about the “hazards” of raw milk. The resolution “discourages the consumption of raw milk and encourages states to pass laws or adopt administrative rules that prohibit the sale of raw milk directly to the household consumer and to the unlawful manufacturers of unlawful dairy products. . .”
This resolution, which continues to reflect the double standard of risk assessment for raw milk versus other foods, is not binding on the states in any way and does not differ in substance from Section 9 of the current PMO. What is interesting is the fact that the issue of raw milk is obviously causing concern in the industry.
Another significant resolution recognized the occurrence of Johne’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, in 20-40 percent of US dairy cattle herds. The resolution exhorts “all Grade A milk suppliers [to] join and participate in the USDA Voluntary Bovine Johne’s Herd Certification Program. . . that promotes best management practices to eliminate or reduce the incidence of Johne’s disease in domestic cattle to the lowest possible level.” The industry is concerned because pasteurization does not kill the Johne’s bacterium and because the bovine disease is associated with Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel syndrome) in humans.