In the midst of regulator crackdowns on raw milk in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, there are some intriguing signs of accommodation emerging from the smoke and fire.

Wisconsin may well be on a path to permit raw milk production after all. Following all the ups and downs over whether legislation allowing raw milk in Wisconsin would be allowed–culminating in Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto last spring–it now seems as the whole matter could be resuscitated. And from no stranger a source than the Special Raw Milk Policy Working Group set up by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection early this year, and seen by many raw milk advocates as a charade to perpetuate the state’s anti-raw-milk agenda.

Moreover, the few raw milk proponents on the working group haven’t been as involved as expected and one, Mark Zinniker, actually resigned recently because the meetings have taken so much time. The last meeting, in which raw milk standards were discussed in great detail, lasted an excruciating seven hours–tough for farmer volunteers for whom seven hours may be half a work day.

And in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted to reject proposed regulations that would have placed additional burdensome regulations on raw milk producers–prohibiting most hand bottling and requiring that bottles be washed in separate facilities from where bottling takes place. The IRRC sent the proposals back to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) with a request that raw milk producers be considered separately from processors. The IRRC also advised the PDA to take the radical step of consulting with raw milk producers before submitting new regs.

We know from extensive experience that most consumers are apathetic on the raw milk issue–they don’t share the passion against raw milk of their regulator overseers. So when regulators try to crack down, and raw milk proponents speak up, there is no opposition from other consumers.

In Wisconsin, the push for the raw milk legislation last spring, combined with the civil disobedience of Vernon Hershberger, who continues to sell raw milk, may have sent a message to DATCP that trying to outlaw raw milk is a losing proposition. Similar situation in Pennsylvania. That’s why it’s so essential that people continue to speak up and be heard. There is no popular opposition to food rights.
Rebecca Thistlethwaite of Honest Meat
There’s a sad farming story out of California. The producers of the popular Honest Meat are giving up on farming in northern California. One of the owners, Rebecca Thistlethwaite, attributes their problems to a variety of issues, including high land prices, difficulties with commercial slaughtering, and finicky consumers. She is very articulate, and her account is worth reading.