FDA Reported on a New War Path Against Raw Milk

Edwin Shank of The Family Cow, a raw dairy in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying a new tack, using an obscure regulation, to limit availability of raw milk, and make life miserable for many raw dairy farmers across the country.

It has apparently put its lawyers to work scouring dairy regulations, and they have decided to strictly enforce a provision that requires testing of ALL milk for antibiotics. The effect is to make survival much more difficult for dairy farmers who sell some of their milk for pasteurization and hold some back for private sales of raw milk or for making cheese.

Here is how Pennsylvania dairy farmer Edwin Shank describes the shift, in a newsletter he put out today to his customers:

“A high percentage of permitted raw milk farms across the nation jug and sell raw milk to their local customers and they love it. In fact, raw direct sales is usually their first love. They would love to sell all of their milk as raw milk.

“But since they don’t have enough raw milk customers to keep their farm going financially, they often sell 75% or greater of their milk to a milk marketing co-op. The co-op pays them a much lower price, of course, since they are picking it up bulk in a milk tanker truck and doing the work of bottling and distributing the milk to grocery stores, but it is better than no market at all.

“Up to this point, most of the co-ops have been at least a little understanding, and put up with raw milk farmers selling some of their milk as raw. But now the FDA seems to have set out to change that.

“The FDA is scaring the willies out of the co-op people by enforcing (in an extremely detailed and unbendable way) an obscure antibiotic testing requirement that has been on the books all along.

“The co-ops’ fear is not that the raw milk farmers would fail the antibiotic test. Most of us are organic and do not even use antibiotics period.

“Rather, the co-ops are afraid that if a raw milk farmer would not fill out the complex FDA required paperwork correctly when he makes a batch of raw cheese or bottles a few jugs of raw milk that his mistake would jeopardize all the rest of the farmers who make up the BTU (Bulk Tank Unit) of the milk co-op.

“The FDA has made it very clear that they would do just that. They would shut down and penalize 100s of farms if there is even one missed entry in a whole ream of paperwork from even one small farmer in the group.

“Of course as you can imagine, this threat throws the co-ops’ legal counsel, insurance providers, bankers and even the farmers into a dizzy panic of fear. As you can see by the TSC letter to us, they feel they have no recourse but to demand that any farmer who sells to them must promise to sell 100% of the farm’s milk to them and agree to NEVER hold back ANY for raw milk sales or cheese.

“Most raw milk farmers have no choice. As much as they love to sell raw milk… their family farm cannot remain financially viable without sales to the co-op. I have talked to many of these farmers. They sadly will need to discontinue raw milk sales in the next few months.

“The only raw milk farmers who will survive this are those who did not have any co-op relationships in the first place or those whose raw milk percentage was so great that the loss of the co-op sales will be small enough that they will be able to reinvent themselves and survive without the co-op.”

Shank says his dairy, one of the largest raw milk producers in the country, is fortunate that it can survive without making milk available to the co-op processor. “It’s not going to be easy. As I write, we are in the frantic process of buying $5,000 of additional FDA required lab testing equipment, something over $100,000 in other dairy processing equipment, (think cream, butter, yogurt, etc that TSC used to do for us) and then we will need to spend an additional $10,000 per year every year going forward running tests for antibiotics 3 to 5 times per week at the government’s mandate even though we have not used antibiotics on our organic farm for over 10 years! We even have a government agency and certification called USDA Organic to verify that we have not and do not use antibiotics!”

He advises customers of other raw dairies to re-commit to supporting those that may be uncertain about being able to continue raw milk sales. “If you do know of a raw milk farmer near you who is on the edge trying to decide if he can swing his raw milk dream without his old co-op sales… now is the time to solidly get behind him and give him the hand that he and his family need to make it over the top. Talk to them about it. They may be embarrassed to bring up the subject lest they be seen as a failure. Assure them that you need them and you’ll be there for them. Together we can stand.”

This is all a further reminder, as if we needed it, that the promises of reduced regulation by the new administration in Washington do not extend to small farms. Instead, they seem to be reserved for the largest and most prosperous corporations.

27 comments to FDA Reported on a New War Path Against Raw Milk

  • Sharon Intilli

    It’s time that these raw milk farmers band together in a letter to Congress about the conflict regarding the FDA direction and the rules of CERTIFIED ORGANIC LABELING BY THE USDA. There is no need for the FDA to insert itself into this matter and it is clearly just a case of harassment. Many in Congress support raw milk sales. Find those members and urge them to intervene.

  • Zak

    Very informative David. Thank you again for being the front-runner on important food news and attacks against the real food movement. I am looking forward to seeing the comments and discussions to follow.

  • Alvin Schlangen

    Part of a sentence from Sharon nail it: There is no need for the FDA! We have no need for another administrative agency that puts business (big AG) ahead of human health and access to medicinal food, interdependence of farm/family:) Just NO need, and NO more taxes for it!

  • Dan

    There is no valid reason to test for antibiotics if the farmer never used them in the first place. A sworn statement the farm never used antibiotics should suffice.

  • Just another in the already LONG list of reasons why we need health care for ALL recognized, LEGALLY, as a human right, and the gov’t tasked with providing it to all: to reduce these perverse incentives for making people sick (and poverty-stricken, since poverty is a huge predictor of ill health) in the first place.

    • Gordon S Watson

      Jill Herendeen
      since when is there a “right” to be healthy? … derived from what lawgiver? … the Russians suffered under that lie for 70 years, then rejected it first chance they got. A year ago, Americans repudiated O’Bama-care … only to be betrayed by the Great White Hope.
      If communism appeals, a vacation in Cuba, or Red China will apprise you of the facts. Not too many people “fleeing” America for those workers’ utopias, are there? The Medicare schemes in Canada and Great Britain are stalling-out … with more and more people sicker and sicker, dis-proportionate to fund$ shoveled into healthcare budgets. And remember = every one of those dollars was expropriated from a citizen, without his consent. We live in a world of super-abundance, thus, there’s more than enough resources to assist those genuinely dis-advantaged. But no-fault, state-funded health care burdens producers with the cost of the consequences of profligates who break God’s health laws

    • D. Smith D. Smith

      Are we to understand, Jill, that you actually want gubmint socialized medicine in the USA?? I know the cheerleaders for this program make it sound so great, but do some homework, please. Health care is not a “right” and the only people who would benefit from this type of thing is the industry, not the people. Even the doctors don’t want it.

      • John Dutcher

        D. Smith,
        I have 4 doctors right now in my life, unfortunately. All four of these doctors are in favor of Medicare for all, so most likely there is a split amongst the doctors as there is in t he general population.
        John Dutcher

      • David Gumpert David Gumpert

        If government sponsored health care is so terrible, why does pretty much every First World country have it, including those many European countries that support raw dairy? Or, put another way, why is the U.S. the only civilized country that pushes back so hard on ensuring that all its citizens have access to affordable health care? Maybe for the same reason we are the only country in the world that hasn’t signed up for the Paris Climate accords?

        • D. Smith D. Smith

          @ David: We (you and I) are such polar opposites on all of these issues you mentioned, I am not even going to start a conversation about any of them. It’s not that I can’t back up my opinions on these matters, it’s just that it’s far too complicated for me to get started on any of these. You believe whatever you believe, I believe whatever I believe, and we are NOT ever going to be on the same page, obviously. I will, however, say that this is not about politics, as far as my opinions are concerned. I’ve held the same views for many, many years on all of this and I’m not wavering in my opinions, at all. It’s not worth fighting about because no matter what happens on any of these issues, what I believe won’t change a thing, and neither will what you believe. Unfortunately, we the people really don’t get to say what we want and have anyone at the top pay attention to us, at all. That’s because those people have differing opinions, too.

  • Pete

    That there are so many farms depending on selling to the co-op after all this time is a testament to the lack of economic sustainability of the raw milk market for many farmers.

    It is past time that consumers start making greater financial commitments to their farmers or they will soon find themselves without any source of raw milk. You’re asking them to put everything on the line to provide you product, its time you do everything you can to make that possible for them to continue.

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  • Vera

    I don’t know how many licensed farmers there are in PA right now, but a 2010 action alert on the WAPF site said there were “136 licensed raw dairy farms and 40 applications pending.” How many are there now?

    Contrast that to California, with six licensed farms and three times the population of PA.

    Why is there such a difference? Could it be that most of the 6 farms in CA are dedicated raw milk farms? Maybe someone from CA can answer this.

    Maybe the unintended consequence of this ridiculous enforcement action in PA is that there will be a greater proportion of dedicated raw milk farms and fewer conventional farms selling raw milk as a side-line? That the dairying community might see differentiation?

  • Yesterday in San Francisco, I testified at an FDA public hearing. The hearing was an outreach effort by the USDA, EPA and FDA to try and understand how to connect with consumers. The FDA panel voiced their concern that they had lost consumer confidence and they wanted to know how to regain it.

    There were 24 registered speakers and each got 10 min to speak. 5 speakers didn’t show up so there was extra time during the 5 hour hearing.

    The room was divided down the middle. It was moms against industry. I was the only organic farmer to show up and speak. The only other farmer was a conventional dairyman from CA that voiced his support for GMO to feed the world.

    I spoke about the human genome, the gut disruptive nature of roundup, the Round up ready crops that invite massive Roundup applications directly into our food chain, the EU rejections of GMOs, the EU rejection of Roundup as a known carcinogen, I spoke about raw milk and how the fda refuses to open a constructive dialogue with producers or consumers. Plus plenty more.

    I was the only speaker to get an applause.

    I told the FDA that my secret sauce was that served the moms and their families while they served industry. I remarked that they were acting as a “marketing department for Monsanto” that got them taking notes. No where in their mission does it say that they will advocate for industry.

    I even went so far as to say that if they really wanted to regain consumer trust…..they should immediately declare that they no longer serve industry, that they now serve the American families and good whole foods and that they should roundup and evict all industry representatives from the FDA grounds and make this a very public demonstration. This would clearly show the consumers that they hav shifte gears.

    Probably the greatest message sent was at the end when the mothers groups stood around me for a group picture and we were as tight as family. None of the others were embraced by the moms that spoke about their kids and health and effects of roundup on the human gut and immune systems !!

    The message that resounded around the room was this: How did the raw milk guy earn the love and trust of the moms and the activist groups in the room? After all….that is who the FDA was trying to reach out too to convince that GMO were safe and good.

    I was able to corner and speak with the Phd ( female of indian origin ) from the FDA for ten minutes to explain our position and press for raw milk over state lines.

    It was a good day.

    Mark

  • Gordon S Watson

    “how did the raw milk guy earn the love and trust of the moms and activist groups in the room” ? that one’s easy to answer. The current buzz-word among politicos, is “consultation”. We get the impression that the FDA reps were primed to really listen to all-concerned, particularly ; Mark McAffee at his best. Noticing that, the young moms et al. rallied around the standard-bearer for common sense in an authentic example of speaking Truth to Power. Which is as it should be.
    Lesson learned ( I hope) As my old man would say “stick to your knitting” … meaning = ‘concentrate on what you know.’

  • John Dutcher

    Gordon,
    You are such a negative Nellie and your ego only allows you to believe yourself, jeesh!! I also saw that you intimated Justin Trudeau is Fidel Castro’s son???? Really Gordy Ol’Boy??? You did not learn from your Dad, did you?? Stick to your knitting :>) But you do bring quite a comic relief to these serious matters :>)

    • Gordon Watson

      John Dutcher
      as usual = your ignorance is showing re Justin { erstwhile } Trudeau son of Fidel Castro
      I go back so far I remember Professor Marshal McLuhan teaching us “information overload brings pattern recognition” : see if you can muster sufficient intellectual integrity to examine the FACTS before opening your stupid yap. Get more and better information in the easily -available compilation of photos of Trudeau Jr alongside Comrade Fidel, at the same ages. that apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. Take into account the fact that, at the very moment of Justin Trudeau’s conception, Margaret Trudeau was scandalizing the country by whoring herself around …in highlife and lowlife circles and it’s fair comment to posit the notiong that Justin Trudeau was conceived on the Trudeau’s trip to Cuba

  • David Gumpert David Gumpert

    Just so there is no confusion over who is calling the shots, Trump just appointed a high-ranking Big Pharma exec to be head of HHS, which includes the FDA.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/trump-names-drug-exec-health-secretary-51113156

  • John Dutcher

    David,
    Here we go with the revolving door employment practices at all of the government ABC agencies, different boss,same as the old boss :>)
    Gordy,
    You always bring a smile to my face :>)
    D. Smith,
    I have to agree with David on this one, it works in all the other first world countries, at least way better than what we have here, where private industry gets the government to finance all the research and development( a.k.a. taxpayers dollars), but the private corporations keep All the profits and matters not if the patient recovers.

    • Ken Conrad Ken Conrad

      John,

      If in your country “private industry gets the government to finance all the research and development (a.k.a. taxpayers dollars)”, do you truly believe that it will be any different under a government funded system? I can assure you, the pharmaceutical industry is on a gravy train ride here in Canada.

      Government funded health care (Universal Health Care) in Canada is a white elephant… Patients take advantage of it and doctors milk it! The systems narrow focus on allopathic modalities is indicative of its lack of universality. It also encourages sickness…the more you use it the more you need it. Canadian politicians are at wit’s end in their attempt to control health care spending.

      Although publically funded health care has merit when it comes to emergency and critical care, it should not be used to pay for the likes of genital transition surgery, and the new abortion pill Mifegymiso, as is the case in Ontario.

    • D. Smith D. Smith

      @ John Dutcher: Of course you agree with David. I, however, do not and I don’t agree with you either. YOU are looking at it totally from a financial standpoint (the outcomes, that is) instead of a health CARE standpoint. When we are talking about health care, the free market is the absolute only way that will ever, ultimately, work for everyone. I disagree with your assessment that “it works” in all other countries – it certainly does not.

      But hey, you go ahead and keep tooting that horn if that’s what you believe. It will never be what I believe.

  • John Dutcher

    Oh Yeah, one other thing Gordy, my wife says Justin is just too damned pretty to even be related to Fidel, and this was AFTER looking at pictures of young Fidel, HA!HA!. Methinks you take life way too seriously
    John Dutcher

  • Gordon S Watson

    John Dutcher
    the Cubans took things seriously, too … like millions of people who understood what communism really is, they risked their lives, fleeing from El Presidente’s worker’s paradise. Strikes me you’re just another stupified Ham-merican “resting on your lees” … in your vanity, as the Red Tide rises in this country, mocking the watchmen on the wall like me whose duty it is to sound the alarum. Confer with the experience of white Christians in South Africa … coming soon to a neighbourhood near you

  • John Dutcher

    “watchmen on the wall like me whose duty it is to sound the alarm” No ego there Gordy Ol’ Boy, you certainly are FULL of yourself, and your rantings always make me laugh out loud, after I get over how far “out there” you are!!. Gonna get me some more organic coffee with my illegal cream and enjoy me some life :>)
    John Dutcher

  • Gordon S Watson

    thank you Mister Dutcher, for demonstrating one of the lessons I learned in my 3 decades of political activism : when your opponents start using your language, they’re entrained in your logic. As the old Polish proverb has it “he laughs. He has not yet heard the bad news”… confer also with the dictum of the stages a concept goes through as it is initially ignored / mocked /vigorously reviled / finally accepted as received wisdom. We see this in the national cycle of the Israelites, ie. us = white people.

    Life is so much easier now that I’m a Calvinist… confident in perfect predestination, in which school of theology a guy like you are just playing your appointed role as the fool … mocking the prophetic type = me = whose calling it is to remind the nation of our heritage, the Law of the God of Israel. On this forum, my job is to urge folks to read the Bible, and ALL of it, especially the food and agricultural laws. Deuteronomy 28 is a good start

  • D. Smith D. Smith

    @ John Dutcher: Yep, socialized health care is so popular they are now DEMANDING that we adopt it as the savior THEY CLAIM it is. There’s an unspoken agenda here for those of you who simply don’t want to see it.

    Here’s the details and this is the short version. Great reading.

    https://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/health-care/item/27390-un-elders-demand-americans-accept-government-healthcare

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