Dave Milano made a telling observation in a comment following my previous post: The simple notion of basic human rights gets lost in tangles of misunderstanding, and as a result, States are given more power than they ought to have, or are tacitly or directly given freedom to exercise powers they were never expressly allowed.
We are seeing a classic example of the kind of power grab Milano describes going on in Illinois, where the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is trying to use its rule-making powers to so tightly restrict availability of raw milk that the food will essentially become unavailable. The regulatory agency is trying to grab power from the legislature, knowing that it would never pass the kind of law on raw milk that the public health regulators are trying to enact.
Right now, Illinois farmers can sell an unlimited amount of raw milk on the farm without a permit.
The IDPH wanted to turn its new rules into a fait accompli before public discussion occurred, but the agency was exposed by a dairy owner who got wind of the effort, being overseen by a dairy-industry-oriented group IDPH put together (known as the Raw Milk Steering Committee) to come up with the new restrictions. He alerted the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. It has been seeking to mobilize its members in Illinois to oppose the effort and get the whole smelly affair out into the open.
According to the FTCLDF, The proposed regulation would prohibit producers from selling more than 100 gallons a month; in addition, it would require raw dairy farmers to comply with Grade A standards, costing farmers thousands of dollars to upgrade their dairy facility. Further, the regulation would ban herdshare agreements, even though Illinois law recognizes dairy livestock boarding contracts as being legal.
What makes the power grab even more amazing is that it is coming even though there have been no cases of foodborne illnesses attributed to raw milk produced in Illinois going as far back as at least 1999, according to the FTCLDF.
Its hard to know exactly what is motivating the Illinois regulators. Are they trying to show their masters at the dairy companies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that they can be as tough as their neighbors in Wisconsin and Minnesota? Or trying to secure additional FDA funding? Or maybe trying to curry favor with certain legislators receiving lots of Big Ag money?
One thing is for sure, this isnt just happening in a vacuum. Its part of the nationally directed effort to fight raw milk and food rights, and part of the pushback against efforts in 15 or so states to make raw milk more easily available.
Another part of the anti-raw-milk effort involves distorting the data on raw milk illnesses. The Weston A. Price Foundation has assessed data from the Centers for Disease Control–the data supposedly showing raw milk is 150 times more dangerous than pasteurized–to point out its flaws. The big one, of course, is that the data is based on outbreaks, not illnesses. Its illnesses, how many people are getting sick, that tell the real story and the CDC refuses to deal with the real story.
The only way the Illinois power grab is not going to happen is if enough people stand up and tell the regulators its not going to happen.
Opponents of the IDPH actions can begin by emailing Molly Lamb, the Division Chief of the IDPH Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies–email@example.com.
Then, opponents can attend the May 1 meeting of the Raw Milk Steering Committee in Bloomington, IL. Its being held from 10 a.m. to noon at the Illinois Farm Bureau Building, 1701 Towanda Ave., Bloomington.
Today I took some advice from this blog: I complained about some questionable raw milk. Last Sunday, I purchased some raw milk with a use by date of April 5. When I first tried it, I thought it tasted a little off. By yesterday (Wed) it smelled pretty ripe. So I telephone the outlet where I obtained it, and suggested a conversation with the milk producer. (I have intentionally not mentioned the location of all this, since I dont want to cause a regulatory problem.) The outlet manager said she would follow through, and actually thanked me for my alert. I felt good about alerting all concerned about a potential problem.
Another milestone, achieved yesterday: I handed over the final proofs of my upcoming book to the publishers production team. The book is Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Controls What We Eat (being published by Chelsea Green Publishing Co.).
The book provides a behind-the-scenes view of the struggle over privately available food. I was able to gain access to extensive internal investigative documentation about the governments campaign against private food. Readers here will recognize a number of the people whom I follow, though the bulk of what I report on hasnt appeared here (or anywhere). I am honored that Virginia farmer Joel Salatin has written a moving forward. (He says, in part, “David Gumpert plucks out some of the most salient battles in this current food war and brings them to our awareness with the storytelling genius of a spy novel.”
It was only fitting, I suppose, that the last revision I did on Wednesday was of an end note. There are a lot more of them than I initially realized–I counted a few shy of 300.
The book is available for pre-order now from Amazon, at a 35 per cent discount; it should be shipping in early to mid June.