One of the vivid memories I have of Mark Nolts trial last May in Pennsylvania for selling raw dairy products without a license was of a scene that took place outside the courtroom early in the morning, before the trial got under way. As protesters in a parking lot waved signs supporting Mark, about 100 yards away, an official of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture waited in front of the small courtroom for the doors to be unlocked.

One of the protesters, a man who looked to be in his fifties, approached him, very politely, and tried to engage the official. You know, we have to figure out a way to talk to each other, to solve this problem, the protester said. We are all people of good will. We cant be going on like this.

The PDA official nodded his head yes, but you could see in his body language that all he wanted was for the damned courtroom door to be unlocked, so he could get the hell away from this guy.

I thought about that scene as I read Amanda Roses lengthy analysis on The Epicurean about what went wrong with SB 201. She argues essentially that the pro-raw-milk people and dairies werent nice enough, or politically savvy enough, to the California Department of Food and Agriculture and governorthat they put out misleading press releases and failed to properly engage the executive branch.

All I can say is that her argument sounds potentially logicalthe kind of argument that likely applies to any number of failed legislative initiativesuntil you consider the reality that the CDFA never engages in any kind of public discussion about raw milk. In fact, agriculture and public health officials around the countryfrom both the states and the federal governmentare the same way. They almost never show up for public discussions of the pros and cons of raw milk. When John Sheehan, the chief dairy guy at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, gave his testimony against raw milk at the Maryland legislature in early 2007, he did it via a prepared text he sent inhe didnt actually appear and subject himself to questions. When a Washington, DC, radio station invited the FDA to send a representative to discuss raw milk with some proponents last year, it declined, saying raw milk is not a debatable issue.

Remember, the CDFA and other state agriculture and public health departments take their cues from the FDA. And for the FDA, the matter of raw milk is an ideological issue. There is nothing to debate if you are absolutely right.

Amanda unfortunately has a blame-the-victim mentalityif you had only been nice to the mugger, he wouldnt have beaten you up so badly. The reality is that the legislators who voted overwhelmingly for SB 201 are close to the people, and heard their phone calls pleading for the legislation. The CDFA is completely distant from the people, but it is well connected to the governor that appointed its leaders. The CDFA told the governor what action the FDA requires in such situations, and wrote out his veto message just to be sure everyone understood whos in charge. Theres nothing to discuss, in Pennsylvania or California or pretty much anywhere else.