Liz Reitzig, who is leading the legislative effort to legalize herdshares in Maryland. I’m still amazed about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s accusation that most raw milk drinkers welcome pathogens in their food (described in my previous post. 


Aside from personal views we may have about the role of bacteria in our food and bodies, it’s important to appreciate that the FDA’s carefully considered comment was a political one, not a scientific one. As I said, it was a canard, a crude, vicious sort of accusation that must be understood in terms of its political message.


The message might simply be that the FDA is frustrated that ever more people ignore its warnings about the dangers of raw milk, and its officials were expressing their frustration.


More ominously, the FDA has determined that its fear mongering about the dangers of raw milk aren’t working, so it is moving to a different level of battle. If it was using rifles and hand grenades before, it might now be seen as resorting to chemical weapons. 


As a Jew, maybe I’m more sensitive to canards that some others. Throughout history in the Middle East and Europe, canards about Jews have been used to foment deadly attacks. In Russia and Poland, a popular canard was that Jews had killed Jesus, and must be punished…again, and again. The Nazis used the canard that the Jews were robbing Germany of its wealth to justify attacks on Jews that escalated into mass murder. 


In the U.S., canards were long used against blacks. A popular one was that black men lusted after white women, and fabricated accusations were used again and again to justify lynchings. 


You see, a canard is a way to dehumanize one group, and set it up as a scapegoat for the majority. 

Why would the FDA be switching tactics at this point in time? Maybe because it sees itself losing the battle over raw milk and food rights. Just look at what has been happening over the last few weeks: 


  • Supporters of Vernon Hershberger are planning a gathering at his next pre-trial event, March 18. in Baraboo, WI. That’s when a state judge will be hearing arguments on whether Hershberger should lose certain rights to call witnesses at his upcoming trial in May because he failed to initiate administrative proceedings with the state agriculture authorities after they shut his farm store down in 2010. Hershberger has argued that his religious convictions prevent him from initiating legal action against anyone.  
  • Simultaneously, raw milk supporters in Wisconsin are gearing up to push for new legislation allowing the sale of raw milk from dairy farms. The legislation hasn’t been formally introduced, but that is expected shortly. Big Ag is already gearing up to oppose the legislation, in America’s “Dairy State.” 
  • A push for raw milk legalization in Iowa. The legislation would allow raw milk sales from permitted dairy farms. Hearings are in the process of being held, and among those testifying are Mary McGonigle Martin, the California mom whose son, Chris, was sickened by raw milk back in 2006 (and who has commented here frequently). Also on the agenda is Ted Beals, the Michigan retired pathologist who has developed data he contends shows fewer illnesses from raw milk than reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
  • Raw milk proponents in Texas are pushing to extend permitted sales to farmers markets and for delivery. Raw milk is currently allowed only from permitted farms. Hearings were held this past week in the Texas House of Representatives.
  • In two states that have long opposed raw milk under any circumstances–Maryland and Rhode Island–moves are afoot to gain legalization of herdshares and farm sales. Maryland is the home of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which helps explain its long opposition. But now legislation is pending, and according to Liz Reitzig of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition, hearings are being held that could lead to passage…if enough people get behind it. She is testifying next week in hearings at the Maryland House of Representatives for HB502, which would legalize herdshares. And a Rhode Island representative is pushing for hearings on legalizing raw milk as well. 
  • Finally, in Minnesota, supporters of raw dairy farmer Michael Hartmann, who was just charged with three new criminal charges for selling raw milk, are asking for messages of support, as well as donations to help him through these difficult times. His contact info: Michael Hartmann, General Delivery, Gibbon, MN 55335

These efforts may or may not succeed. But what I hear in each of these places is that people are worked up, and pushing hard. Even if they don’t succeed on behalf of particular legislation this year, they’ll be back, in those states and a growing number of others. 


So here’s my theory about the FDA’s switch in tactics: The FDA sees the shift in momentum that is occurring, the growing upset of people over being told they can’t eat certain foods and can’t acquire them privately, directly from farmers. They are working for change. For the FDA, things are getting out of hand. Desperate times require desperate measures. 


As Michael Schmidt of Canada often says, We haven’t seen the worst of what they are capable of. Fasten your seat belts.