When agent Jim Roettger of the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture was caught on video confiscating raw milk last December in suburban Minneapolis, he could be heard at one point telling a complaining consumer to bug out. “I don’t have to respond to your questions. You’re not part of this investigation.” In other words, we may be taking your milk, but it’s none of your business if we bring the wrath of the law down on your farmer supplier.
I get the same feeling reading through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s response to the FTCLDF federal suit challenging the agency’s prohibition on interstate sale and distribution of raw milk. I’ve gone through the FDA’s response several times during my travels since it came out a couple weeks back, trying to make sense of it beyond its legalese—after all, the FDA rarely reveals much about its real strategy, except when forced to in legal confrontations like this one.
The first thing that’s curious is the FDA’s explicit assertion that any consumer who brings raw milk across state lines is breaking the law. “It has been settled law for nearly a century that an article that is purchased by a consumer and transported across state lines for his or her consumption is in interstate commerce,” the brief states, citing a case involving the purchase of alcoholic beverages that are brought from one state to another. “In light of the foregoing case law, it is apparent that the sale of unpasteurized milk to a customer who intends to transport it out of state, either directly or through an intermediary, constitutes delivery into interstate commerce.”
Also interesting is that the FDA makes sure there are no ambiguities in its contention. “Not only do direct shipments across state lines to consumers constitute interstate commerce, but…a person who purchases unpasteurized milk in one state with the intent to take it to another state (either for personal use [emphasis added]or to distribute to others) is engaging in interstate commerce.”
But, benign dictator that it is, it has has chosen not to enforce that interpretation of the law, the FDA then states. Of course, the agency doesn’t put it that way, suggesting instead that its approach is to “make efficient use of agency resources” by targeting farmers who distribute raw milk across state lines. It refers to “enforcement discretion” in its decision not to target consumers. “Producers and distributors of raw milk in interstate commerce…have been the object of the agency’s enforcement action,” it states, and cites several cases in which it has either sought prosecution or sent warning letters to dairies.
I’d like to suggest the FDA is being totally cynical in its response. The business about making effective use of resources is a cop-out—if raw milk is the “significant public health hazard” that the FDA claims it is, and consumption is rising rapidly and likely involving millions of Americans, then the agency should be going after every single consumer who crosses state lines with raw milk, using its broad authority to protect consumers from themselves.
No, the agency doesn’t want to foment out-and-out rebellion. So it seeks to keep consumers pacified by making an implicit bargain: We won’t hassle you directly, but rather indirectly. Your supplier is always in danger, but if we take action, you, the consumer needn’t worry about being caught in the roundup. Just poor farmers.
Of course, we are all victimized when the agency targets dairy farms and confiscates milk or prevents it from being produced. Perhaps a federal judge will see through the FDA’s hypocrisy and call a halt to the entire charade.
Chalk up another victory for the Maine farmers promoting food sovereignty statutes. Deborah Evans, one of the farmer proponents, reports that Blue Hill joined two other towns in voting for a local ordinance allowing farmers to sell their dairy and other products directly to consumers, without the burden of state regulations. That makes three of four towns in which the ordinance was proposed have adopted it. And the fourth town, Brooksville, which had narrowly defeated the proposed ordinance last month, is likely to take it up again within the next few months.
I thank all you farmers who are putting your livelihoods on the line to supply raw milk – you are so brave! The least I and my fellow consumers can do is share the risk.
This reminded me of the Ohio Raw Milk Study link posted here yesterday, which requested farmers who drink raw milk; then I reread the article and saw I'd missed the very last line: "The study is funded by and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Integrated Food Safety Initiative." That oughta make the farmers feel reassured about participating in the study.
So, it looks like OSU is ready to run their proposed study posted last fall: http://thebovine.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/university-to-study-raw-milk-drinkers/
But last fall's news release says OSU is calling for 60 each raw milk and pasteurized milk drinkers, with half of each group coming from farm families, who will be paid $50 (now to be paid $25 each): "We truly do not know very much about how people make the choice to drink raw or pasteurized milk — there's just nothing in the literature," said Lydia Medeiros.
However, the news link from yesterday calls for not for regular consumers, but ALL FARMERS, and the study now questions why FARMERS decide to drink raw milk: "We truly do not know very much about how farmers make the choice to drink raw or pasteurized milk — there's just nothing in the literature," said Lydia Medeiros.
Very odd, and makes my bullshit meter range off the charts. Why the switch of study from "people" to "farmers"? There are more consumers who drink raw milk than are farmers who produce it (and drink it).
Its there somewhere.
In this study:
Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials
The conclusion was:
Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard
From the article Blair referenced it appears that health bureaucrats and certain scientists are having a difficult time understanding why farmers can actually make a conscience decision to drink such a hazardous product. My answer to them and I am quite certain I speak for many farmers is that based on personal experience we realize that milk is not as hazardous as those so called experts would have us believe.
Goatmaids bullshit meter alert is indeed justified since the sole purpose of this survey is figure out a way to manipulate the raw milk movement through the farmers. Would raw milk sales indeed be what they are if farmers drank only pasteurized milk?
It looks like the OSU folks just re-used their first press release and changed the wording slightly to say that the upcoming focus groups are now looking to survey farm families. They've already finished the consumer focus groups and surveys, and are now moving on to interviewing the farm people. This past January I was able to participate in one of their focus groups in my area along with two other of my farmer's shareholders. We met and spoke for about three hours with Lydia Meideros, Janet Buffer and their graduate student Alyssa Mark. I found all three of them to be very open-minded, un-opinionated and they all had a good sense of humor. I think that they've been learning a lot from speaking with us, and I had a very pleasant time meeting with them.
I would encourage any farm families in Ohio to not have any qualms about meeting with them, and I think you'll be treated with respect.
Yes, and sometimes being paranoid is very much entirely justified. 🙂
I think that in this case Lydia or Janet were just being a little lazy and only changed a few words from their earlier press release rather than writing up a new one from scratch. I took a look at yesterday's comments and somebody was questioning why the press release popped up in a Texas newspaper. What ends up happening with these kinds of press releases is that depending on how much money the authors are willing to spend they'll either get put on the AP wire or they may just get posted to a website that news services will supposedly monitor. Newspapers and news outlets around the country will have access to these stories, and it's up to each of them whether or not they decide to use them. I don't know why "North Texas e-News" decided to run this particular story, but there you have it.
I still have an RSS feed set up to monitor any news story posted about raw milk, and it's not unusual at all to see the same story pop up on several newspaper sites in a particular region or across the country. It's just OSU's bad luck that none of the Ohio newspapers bothered to run this particular story. (I did help out and post their press release to an email Yahoo group that I manage.)
Talk to you later,
Why bother even asking this question. It does not matter. Who cares why farmers drink their own raw milk or buy it at the stores. In my mind, what really matters is why people three hundred miles from a farmer beg to have that farmer bring that raw milk to them…or why that consumer will do practically anything to get to that farm and buy that raw milk. That is the question to be asked and answered.
I know exactly why farmers drink their own raw milk. I have been told this answer many times at farmers markets from farmers remembering the good-old-days….raw milk was available, cheap, cold and delicious right out of the tank. The good-old-days when they still had a farm and prior to when they did not have lactose intolerance from store bought dead stuff.
But…this is not the question to be asked and answered. It is the off-the-farm consumers that need to be studied. That is where the market is and the growth is and the threat to PMO-CAFO FDA dead milk is.
Since many farmers are now ex-farmers perhaps the study will shed some light on this issue anyway.
Vince Hundt: WI should legalize sale of raw milk
Recent survey estimates from the FDA suggest as many as 12 million people drink raw milk every week. Where are all the sick and dying?
A detailed report by dairy scientists at Cornell University records every public incident of illness associated with milk from 1973 to the present. About 1,100 people have been sickened by drinking raw milk in the last 38 years and not one person died. Meanwhile, in the same period, 422,000 people were made sick by pasteurized dairy products and 17 died.
Obviously, this debate is NOT about health. It is about control. It is about maintaining one of those happy regulated monopolies of big government, big universities and big business, each supporting each others turf for their own ongoing benefit.
Do these entities really care about public health? If they do, what have they been up to? How is it that 50 percent of U.S. adults are diabetic or prediabetic? How is it that we have epidemics of obesity, asthma, allergies, cancer, heart disease and depression with 65 percent of all Americans on at least one daily prescription drug? How is it that we now spend almost 20 percent of our gross domestic product on heath care?
Those problems did not come from drinking unpasteurized milk.
Paranoid me, what can I say… I'm always looking at the universal picture.
You make a good point. I think that in CA there is some selective enforcement going on. I know one very open cow share that is operating yet it is open for business. But the little two cow upstart is being dragged to the DA office with charges threatened Under CDFA law and definitions two cows is not a dairy and CDFA lacks authority. This does not seem to matter to CDFA. They are so bad ass big and powerful with so much dairy politics driving them.
The local DA is a good guy and CDFA may have to bend a little on this case. I have learned that you must be very strong with CDFA and stand your ground. They do bend with political pressure. They love to use lawyers. I would try and visit the capitol and get some political support. If CDFA spends money on two cow operations that is a gross missuse of tax dollars they do not have. They will get crushed by the forces in play
Hang in there and take it to the press. Heat and pressure.
The farm has 2 lactating cows, under Ca law that is not a dairy. Mark you spoke to Pattie.
I was there yesterday, she said I could mention the harassment they are receiving. They are standing their ground.
Many thanks if anyone can provide additional information.