No big surprise, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously accepted the report of its Department of Public Health and Environment (described in my previous post) and refused to overturn the county’s ban on raw milk sales.

Even though 2,600 county residents had signed petitions supporting the legal sale of raw milk when the issue originally came up last August, the board chose to listen to its Department of Public Health and Environment and to its substantial  conventional dairy industry.

I spoke to Mark McAfee, the owner of Organic Pastures Dairy Co., who had been pushing for a lifting of the sales ban, so his company could expand its California market and sell raw dairy products in the county. He was mainly upset that the county’s Department of Public Health and Environment failed to Acknowledge the reality of raw milk distribution in the rest of California, nor to make any mention of California illnesses from pasteurized milk–for example, an outbreak of illness at a California prison that sickened more than 1,000 inmates in 2006.

But overall, he seemed resigned. For one thing, a couple of the Humboldt County supervisors said they’d be open to re-considering s lifting of the ban if “new information” became available, which he feels leaves the door open to bringing the matter up again sometime soon.

More immediately, he’s had some initial discussions about the possibility of selling milk on a county Indian reservation not far from Eureka, which determines its own governance. That would provide at least one retail site for him to introduce raw dairy products.

It’s not as if raw milk is unavailable in the county. Like in many places around the country that prohibit sales, it’s increasingly available privately, direct from farmers to consumers. As Miguel pointed out in a comment following my Jan. 7 post, “Maybe the people of Humboldt county just want to keep their raw milk local and small scale. Maybe they like the economic benefits that this part of the unofficial economy produces, a lot like marijuana was before it was made legal and taxed.”

I can’t get too enraged, either. I actually think it’s kind of neat that Humboldt County is making its own decisions about food availability. I don’t agree with its decision, and I don’t believe its decisions represent popular will, but the idea of localities making decisions apart from the state or federal government about local food policy seems constructive.

I have to believe that, as the milk issue is raised again, and again, local residents will become more educated about what’s happening, about how a small group of officious and arrogant public health professionals have taken excessive control of decision making that ordinary people should be making for themselves: what foods to serve themselves and their families. When people start raising their voices, county officials will listen more closely.

In other places, local initiatives are moving ahead. The Maine Musketeers I described in a posting last September report they have presented their LocalFood.LocalRules Ordinance to the Selectmen of four Pennsylvania residents opposing a federal whisky tax send a tarred and feathered federal tax collector on his way in 1794.Maine coastal towns. The citizens of all four towns will be voting on it at their town meetings this spring. And the Maine Musketeers say they are  out on the stump with a growing list of public chit-chats over the next couple of months.

Wyoming is pushing ahead, again, with its Food Freedom Act, which would allow home-based food producers to sell directly to consumers, without licensing and other government oversight. The proposal was defeated last year. A second proposal allows legalization of raw milk via herdshare arrangements, and was also part of last year’s defeated agenda. But this year is another year, with more educated voters, and more educated legislators and a political climate less receptive to regulatory officiousness.

The idea of localities taking back control of food choices and food rights from state or federal regulation makes a lot of sense. I keep having this vision of the old custom of tarring and feathering government officials who made a nuisance of themselves in small towns. Wouldn’t be a bad way to get rid of the federal regulators who will be descending on towns around the country to enforce the new food safety legislation.