Last month, while visiting at a small ag and liberal arts school in upstate New York to give a talk, I got to tour its well-run conventional dairy of more than 300 cows (and a 5,000-gallon bulk tankpictured at left). It serves as an on-campus training facility for students at the school, the State University of New York in Cobbleskill.
I also got to meet with a dairy professor. I didnt expect a lot of encouraging words, given the school’s focus on conventional dairying, and how I predicted in my talk at the school ongoing upheaval in the food world, symbolized by the raw milk revolution.
Lo and behold, the professor was way ahead of me. She was not only friendly, but informed me she had set up a raw milk day for one of her dairy classes. She had invited experts in to explain to her students the challenges of producing and selling safe raw milk. The reason? Her ag students were demanding it.
This is all in a state in which regulators have had their share of run-ins with raw dairies. Apparently there have been some attitude changes among New York regulators.
Indeed, it seems as if positive attitude changes are happening in assorted places on the raw milk and food freedom front these days.
- South Dakota has approved new regs that establish raw milk as a distinct food category.
- Oregon is about to remove its ban on advertising of raw milk.
- Wyomings governor signed into law its Food Freedom Act that allows for the direct sale any food (including raw milk, and excepting only certain meats) directly to consumers.
- A Nevada county that includes Las Vegas is organizing a milk commission, to legalize raw milk sales.
- And in Maine this coming week, hearings will begin on legislation to allow small dairies to sell raw milk privately without a permit; the same legislation made it through the legislature last year, only to be vetoed by the governor .to widespread criticism.
And we know Illinois has pulled back from heavy-handed restrictions on raw milk. California seems to be adopting a similar live-and-let-live approach with its hundreds of small dairies selling raw milk under herd share arrangements.
Sure, there are places that havent gotten the message. Minnesota is one of those places, and eyes will be focused this week on a hearing, beginning today, as to whether Lake View Natural Dairy can be held in contempt for refusing inspections by the notoriously-anti-raw-milk Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Supporters have launched a legal defense fund-raising effort.
But no matter how the case turns out, Minnesotas agents going after yet another law-abiding farm family will simply turn up the volume on the craziness of the long-term war on raw milk and food freedom.
Ive written about how prosecutors and sheriffs seem to be giving ag regulators the message that going after raw dairies is low priority on the enforcement hierarchy. Increasingly, regulators are hearing the same message from state politicians. Moreover, the pols are learning that supporting food freedom issues can actually win them votes.
A seismic shift is in the making, as more young people become engaged in farming, seeking options outside the dead-end commodity marketplace. It wont happen smoothly or easily. And any example of illnesses from raw milk will be exploited ever more fully to try to delay, or even reverse the shift. So continued persistence and diligence and care by those who value food freedom are essential. The trends are moving in the right direction.