Raw Milk – Rx for Dairy Crisis


The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) held a statewide Dairy Summit on October 11 to show the state’s dairies ways to survive the current crisis the industry is going through. The event was great testimony to how unfair the commodity pricing system, the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO), is and how legalization of raw milk sales and/or distribution in the state can help dairy farms remain in business. In the mid-1970s there were over 500 dairy farms operating in New Jersey, today there are 48.

Earlier this year the state’s Grade A dairies were receiving around $14 per hundredweight (one hundred pounds of milk), that figure shrunk to $12 after deducting transportation costs (moving the milk from the farm to the processing plant of the farmer’s dairy cooperative). According to one of the speakers at the summit, the average cost of production for the dairies is $18.50, a path to bankruptcy.

Dairy farmers know the FMMO pricing system robs them of revenues they should be earning but the pricing is complicated enough so that it is difficult to figure out exactly how the FMMO denies them income that should rightly be theirs. Most dairy farmers are captive to the FMMO and the commodity pricing system; they belong to a cooperative which bottles and markets their milk. In that situation, individual farmers do not set their own price.

Four ways a dairy farmer can escape or survive the commodity system are:

  • Own bottling and pasteurization equipment; this is a major expense most dairy farmers cannot afford.
  • Find a creamery willing to bottle and pasteurize an individual farmer’s milk, something that’s not easy to do. Jared Weeks, a dairy farmer from Ringoes, who spoke at the summit, has been able to find a creamery in Pennsylvania to take some of his milk for bottling and pasteurization, but few, if any, other dairy farmers in the state have been able to make the same arrangement.
  • Make value-added dairy products, such as butter, cream, and yogurt; again, this is typically a substantial expense most dairy farmers cannot afford.
  • Sell or distribute raw milk for direct consumption – this is a less expensive way to escape or survive the commodity system whether the farmer is selling direct to the consumer, distributing direct to the consumer through a herd share agreement or selling to retail stores.

New Jersey is one of seven remaining states that do not allow any raw milk sales or distribution. Legislators began introducing raw milk bills in the New Jersey General Assembly back in 2006; since that time New Jersey has lost more than half of its remaining dairies.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is not opposed to legislation legalizing raw milk sales and/or distribution; it is the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) that opposes raw milk legalization. The health department sees raw milk as a health threat but a recent Canadian study found, “The rate of unpasteurized milk-associated outbreaks [in the U.S.] has been declining since 2010. Controlling for growth in population and consumption, the outbreak rate has effectively decreased by 74% since 2005.” According to the Centers for Disease Control from 1998-2016, there were only seven (7) foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to the consumption of raw goat milk, an average of about one outbreak every three years.

Raw milk sales or distribution was not on the agenda for the Dairy Summit. The focus was on individual dairy farmers having access to or building a processing plant that would bottle and pasteurize milk as well as manufacture value-added dairy products. Jon McConaughy, the owner of Double Brook Farm in Hopewell, estimated that it would cost $450,000 to build a processing plant. Daniel Wunderlich, Dairy Program Coordinator for NJDA spoke about having a group processing plant that would bottle both conventional and organic milk. McConaughy said, at this time the New Jersey General Assembly had not allocated any money towards such a project. There were speakers for various agencies of USDA and other organizations who spoke about loans to farmers for marketing and dairy processing plants and equipment but how can farmers qualify for a loan when they are already deeply in debt and are losing money with every shipment of milk they make to their cooperative. Dairy farmers need a decent price for their milk more than they need a loan.

Even though the FMMO wasn’t a topic at the Dairy Summit, the information speakers presented was still an indictment of the commodity milk pricing system.

Tom Beaver, Director of Marketing and Development for NJDA said that New Jersey dairies produce one percent (1%) of the milk New Jersey residents consume. NJDA has established a Jersey Fresh logo that in-state producers of milk and other foods can put on their labels to promote their products. If it looks like the state is down to 48 Grade A dairies because New Jersey consumers don’t want to purchase milk produced in-state, that is not so.

Beaver said that NJDA recently conducted a Jersey Fresh Milk Consumer Survey throughout New Jersey and all five boroughs of New York City; 85% of those responding to the survey “indicated an interest in buying Jersey Fresh milk; 23% of those surveyed would be willing to pay a premium, with the average premium being $1.74 above what respondents are currently paying for a half gallon.” What is wrong with this picture?

Dairy farmer Pete Southway, owner of Springhouse Creamery in Sussex County, said that the fifty cows he milks only provide 7% of the milk residents of his county need. McConaughy estimated that producers free from the commodity system and the milk cooperatives could take in as much as $104 per hundredweight (about $9 per gallon). The demand for local milk is there, it’s not the lack of consumer demand as much as the commodity pricing system that are driving dairies out of business.

Retired dairy farmer John Pugh attended the summit. Pugh, who is 97 years young, recalled how once the FMMO went into effect that he switched his herd from Guernseys to Holsteins, placing greater emphasis on the quantity of milk production and less on quality. Legalizing raw milk sales and distribution in New Jersey is a way to put more quality milk on the market and to revive the dairy business in the state that the FMMO helped destroy.

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About the top photo:
“Let the Good Times Flow for National Dairy Month!”
Posted 6/4/2015 by Dana Coale, Deputy Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Dairy Program
Source: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/06/04/let-good-times-flow-national-dairy-month

North Carolina Lifts Herdshare Ban


Earlier this year the North Carolina legislature passed a bill containing a provision that ended a 14-year ban on herd share agreements in the state. 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 herd share law went into effect on October 1. With the new law, only two states remain that have expressly banned herd shares by either statute or regulation: Maryland and Nevada.

Session Law 2018-113, also known as the North Carolina Farm Act of 2018, contains a clause stating, “nothing…shall prohibit the dispensing of raw milk or raw milk products for personal use or consumption to, or the acquisition of raw milk or raw milk products for personal use or consumption by, an independent or partial owner of a cow, goat, or other lactating animal.”1

The new herd share law marks the continued move away from earlier attempts to ban raw milk distribution in the state. The sale of raw milk for human consumption has long been illegal in North Carolina. In 2004 an official from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources was able to successfully engineer a stealth bill banning herd shares through to passage in the final hours of the legislative session. Sales of raw pet milk were still legal at the time but the state Department of Agriculture attempted, in 2008, through rulemaking to require all pet milk to be denatured before sale. Opponents led by then Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) chapter leader, Ruth Ann Foster, were not only successful in defeating the proposed rule but were able to pass a bill in 2009 that legalized the unlicensed sale of raw pet milk.

North Carolina is the second state to pass raw milk legislation this year; in March, Utah enacted a law allowing the delivery of raw milk by licensed producers and the on-farm sales by unlicensed producers on a limited basis. With the crisis the conventional dairy industry is going through, there will be more opportunity to increase raw milk access around the country; raw milk is a way to survive or escape the commodity system that is throwing so many dairy farmers out of business.

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[1] North Carolina General Assembly, Session Law 2018-113 (Senate Bill 711), Section 15.2, June 27, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2018 from https://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Bills/Senate/HTML/S711v8.html

Massachusetts Governor Meddles With Raw Milk Bill


The founding fathers saw the separation of powers among the legislative (making laws), executive (enforcing laws) and judicial(interpreting laws) branches as a bedrock of our constitutional republic, but what passes for the separation of powers under our current system of government has little resemblance to what our founding fathers intended, especially when a governor is directly introducing legislation.

On August 9 Governor Charles Baker amended a provision in an appropriations bill that would have expanded raw milk access for consumers and better enabled raw milk producers to make a living. Currently only the licensed on-farm sale of raw milk is legal in Massachusetts; House Bill 4835 (H.4835) would have allowed licensed raw milk farmers to:

  • deliver raw milk directly to a consumer, off-site from the farm if the raw milk farmer has a direct contractual relationship with the consumer;
  • contract with a third party for the delivery of raw milk off the farm to a consumer;
  • deliver raw milk through a CSA (community-supported agriculture) delivery system;
  • make deliveries to the consumer’s residence or to a pre-established receiving site so long as the site was not in a “retail setting”. Raw milk producers, however, could make deliveries in a retail setting through a CSA delivery system provided that the raw milk met the stipulation that it “shall be kept separate from retail items for sale and shall not be accessible to the public.”
  • sell raw milk from the farmer’s farm stand even if the stand is “not contiguous” to the farmer’s raw milk dairy. Current law requires the farm stand to be on the same property where the raw milk dairy is located.

H.4835 had a labeling requirement for raw milk being sold or delivered to consumers off-farm and the bill gave the state department of agricultural resources and the state department of public health joint responsibility to issue regulations governing the handling, packaging, storage and testing , and transportation of raw milk.1

The amendment Governor Baker sent back to the legislature for consideration as House Bill 4884 (H.4884) mentioned none of the benefits of H.4835 except for the sale of raw milk at a farm stand off-site from the dairy farm.

The summary to H.4884 reads:

    An act, a message from His Excellency the Governor returning with his disapproval of a certain section, and also with recommendations of amendments of certain sections contained in the engrossed Bill promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets and opportunity [see House, No. 4835]. August 9, 2018.

H.4884 states, in part, that “the commissioner of public health, shall, … adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to reduce the risk of milk-borne illness associated with the consumption of unpasteurized milk that is sold off-site of the farm at which such milk was produced. Such rules and regulations may include, but shall not be limited to, the sanitary and operational standards for the transportation, receiving, handling, storage, processing, packaging, labeling and sale of milk intended for human consumption prior to pasteurization. … Such regulations shall allow the sale of milk intended for human consumption prior to pasteurization at a farm stand owned or operated by the producer of said milk that is not on the site of the farm at which the milk was produced.”

Given the bias of the public health department against raw milk, it’s unlikely that any of the other benefits provided in H.4835 would be included in a regulation. H.4884 also requires raw milk producers selling at an off-site farm stand to obtain an additional license from the department of public health.2

Governor Baker based his authority to amend the raw milk section of H.4835 on a provision in the Massachusetts Constitution that states, in part, “the governor may disapprove or reduce items or parts of items in any bill appropriating money… As to each item disapproved or reduced, he shall transmit to the house in which the bill originated his reason for such disapproval or reduction, and the procedure shall then be the same as in the case of a bill disapproved as a whole.”3

There is nothing in the state constitution that says that the governor can amend the substantive language in a bill, but the way the executive branch of government has gotten out of control these days at both the federal and state levels in exceeding its powers with little resistance from either the legislative or judicial branch, there’s little reason to believe Governor Baker won’t get away with his violation of the Massachusetts Constitution.

Even if H.4884 is lawful, it’s a poor decision from a policy standpoint. The state’s licensed raw milk producers have an excellent track record of safety with few, if any, foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to the consumption of raw milk in Massachusetts. H.4835 was a way to help raw milk producers—at little or no risk to the public—which is especially important given the current crisis the dairy industry is in today. In 1997 there were 353 dairy farms in Massachusetts; at the end of 2017, there were 135.4

Instead of helping Massachusetts dairy farmers the way he had a chance to, Governor Baker bought into the fear-mongering on the “dangers” of raw milk fed him by his department of public health. The nanny administrative state marches on.

H.4884 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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[1] Massachusetts House Bill H.4835, accessible at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H4835
[2] Massachusetts House Bill H.4884, accessible at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H4884
[3] Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXIII, Section 5
[4] Thomas Farragher, “The demise of a Massachusetts dairy farm”, The Boston Globe, 23 January 2018. Last viewed 9/10/18 at https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/01/23/the-demise-massachusetts-dairy-farm/G0tyAng0VJ9Ovy8nVvjrZK/story.html

Photo by Navraj Narula, Staff of Daily Free Press, published 9 January 2015

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 between owner and consumer) 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.

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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

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.

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.