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How Will You Fight For Raw Milk?

Last week, Obama’s food safety chief Michael R. Taylor defended the recent FDA raids against raw milk producers, even when none of the milk is actually contaminated with pathogens. He said that such sting operations were based on a “public health duty” and “statutory directive.” In other words, the FDA believes that all raw milk is dangerous and bad for you, and they’re going to do everything in their power to keep you from getting your hands on it.

Not surprisingly, the recent food safety legislation passed through congress will empower the FDA to do just that.

This recent article at the San Francisco Gate Politics Blog explains how:

The FDA is in the midst of writing the critical regulations that will implement the Food Safety Modernization Act Congress passed last year with applause all around from the Obama administration, Democrats and Republicans despite ferocious opposition from small-farm advocates. The sweeping new law gives the agency extraordinary powers to detain foods on farms. It also denies farmers recourse to federal courts.

Before the new law, the FDA could only impound food when it had credible evidence the food was contaminated or posed a public health hazard. The detention powers are part of what Taylor described as a new agency focus on preventing food poisoning outbreaks rather than responding to them after the fact. Taylor described the new law as giving the agency “farm to table” control over food safety.

Taylor outlined an aggressive approach, saying he would seek a “high rate of compliance” with new food safety rules, touted the agency’s “whole new inspection and compliance tool kit,” including access to farm records, mandatory recall authority, and enforcement actions that can be accomplished administratively, “without having to go to court.” He said the agency can now also revoke a farm’s mandatory registration (also a new requirement under the law), meaning the FDA can put any farm it finds in violation of any food safety rule out of business.

If the FDA starts muscling your raw milk farmer out of business, what will you do?

The words of Wendell Berry, my agrarian poet hero, come to mind: “There are moments in a nation’s — and a planet’s — history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction.”

That’s just what happened recently in Kentucky, when a raw milk buying club defied the Kentucky Department of Health Services by picking up their “quarantined” raw milk. After the state inspector had slapped his quarantine stickers on the coolers of raw milk, buying club administrators responded swiftly,

By the time members arrived, a new piece of paper had been placed on the coolers, stating:

I, the undersigned, hereby declare that I have taken my milk that comes from cows I own via private contract under the protection of the KY constitution (articles 1,2,4,6,10,16,26), and if the county health department would like to speak with me about this matter, I can be reached at the number given below.

Before the afternoon was out, about 40 members of the buying club had signed the statement, and taken their quarantined milk. “A large number of my members pulled in today and ignored the cease-and-desist and quarantine orders,” John Moody, a co-administrator of the buying club, told me.

In other words, these buying club members openly defied the Louisville public health authorities. In so doing, I believe they are the first consumers to sign on to such an act of group defiance to protect and preserve their food.

If it were you, would you have signed your name? Would you have risked giving state authorities your contact information as you blatantly disregarded their quarantine and picked up your milk? Would you have joined others in appearing to break the law?

Well, if you had, you’d be glad to know that it worked.

This past Friday, a week after the quarantine was implemented, a health inspector showed up again, this time to issue a “withdrawal” of the quarantine. Victory. The first known official withdrawal of a public effort to block raw milk distribution and consumption.

In an email forwarded to Moody from Louisville city officials, Matt Zahn, interim director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, stated: “After lengthy discussion…the Kentucky state health department feels that it does not have a legal basis to support quarantining milk from a ‘cow sharer’ group. While they continue to believe (as we do) that raw, unpasteurized milk represents a health hazard, they have reversed their previous guidance and instructed us to release the milk from quarantine.”

According to the Center For Disease Control’s own survey, at least 10 million people in the U.S. consume raw milk regularly! That’s at least 10 million people who can join together and openly defy the FDA as it tries to use its new found power to shut down raw milk farmers.

It’s my hope that if that time comes, we’ll all be prepared and act as swiftly and courageously as the Kentucky buying club did. David Gumpert calls it “learning to live on a war footing.” To find out how to be prepared, read his recent blog post on the subject.

(photo by kthread)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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24 Responses to How Will You Fight For Raw Milk?
  1. Mark Buxman
    June 13, 2011 | 12:21 am

    This is my first visit to your site and I must admit I am impressed. I am a 55 year old male and read a few of the articles. I have to say they brought back alot of memories. My grandfather was a farmer out in Kansas, he raised his own animals and dairy cows. I got to milk my first cow at around 5 years old. He would only let me fill half of the bucket, then I would dump it into the milk can and after the milk cans were full he carried them to a hand crank seperator. That is where we got our milk. Our eggs came from the chickens he raised as did our beef and pork. Veggies came out of the garden. Dad bought a farm and we raised our own stuff also but as I got older I worked for neighbors on dairy farms and feed-lots. The things you say about how it is now I have seen develop over the course of my lifetime and you are extremely accurate. Now to the point, the govt. shutting down raw milk producers shows how we have become a society of educated idiots. Maybe we can correct the problem with groups like this, I know I will become more proactive now that I know there is a group like this and information is available.

  2. damaged justice
    June 13, 2011 | 5:34 am

    If you act in defense of your lawfully acquired property, YOU ARE NOT THE ONE BREAKING THE LAW. Those trying to steal from you and/or kidnap you, are the criminals. Remember that at all times!

  3. Joshua Allen Donini via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 11:06 am

    BOO! Monsanto stooge Michael Taylor!

  4. Tammy Lee Rodriguez via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 11:09 am

    something has GOT to be done… this is for the birds!!!! boo hiss!!!

  5. Terri Coduri Viani via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 11:19 am

    The CT gov tried something like this a short while back and I think they were surprised at the *huge* outcry from the raw milk citizenry, including me! We won in the end. The revolution will not be pasteurized!! =D

  6. Ashley Brewer via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 11:41 am

    lame for sure boo to the fda

  7. Joel Michael Sims via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 11:46 am

    I’m a member of the food club in KY. Glad to hear we have your support!

  8. KY
    June 13, 2011 | 1:55 pm

    Living on a war footing, but on the wrong side. Raw milk poisons.

    • Lynn Parks
      June 13, 2011 | 6:36 pm

      Just to clarify, KY, are you saying that you believe that raw milk is poisonous?

    • Dave, RN
      June 13, 2011 | 8:54 pm

      Pay no attention to the trolls…

  9. Cecilia Long
    June 13, 2011 | 3:00 pm

    The scary thing is …if this passes, this means not only raw milk but personal gardens can be affected. This new law MUST not be allowed!~

    • KristenM
      June 13, 2011 | 3:59 pm

      That’s just it — the law passed last year, in both houses, and was signed by the President. It *is already* the law of the land. The only thing being done now is the FDA flexing its muscles to see just how far they can go in interpreting what the letter of the law means.

  10. PeterW
    June 13, 2011 | 4:55 pm

    Depends on the source. Raw milk obtained from grass-fed, pastured, healthy cows and processed at the farm that is committed to cleanliness in its milking and bottling operations is one of Nature’s most perfect and nutritious foods. AND it’s delicious to drink. That’s my take, and that’s from my personal experience as a consumer.

    What’s your description for “raw milk poisons?”

  11. Mary Light via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 5:50 pm

    We have a huge raw milk following here in MI with hundreds of local families signed on just in our local area, let alone the rest of the state. There is no way we are going back to commercial junk food. We have the FREEDOM to choose what we want to put on our tables and in our bodies.

  12. Erin Burke Edwards via Facebook
    June 13, 2011 | 9:10 pm

    We can buy “pet food” milk directly from a farmer in our own containers in NC. It’s quite a drive to find someone willing to do so for us. We’ve got two dairy goats of our own now & are looking forward to our own fresh milk next year.

    • Michelle
      June 20, 2011 | 11:17 am

      Hi, Erin. I am also in NC. Could you direct me to where you purchase your milk from? We currently get ours down in Fort Mill, SC, where it is still perfectly legal to sell raw milk but I would love to find someplace closer. Thank you for your help!

  13. Cathy Payne
    June 13, 2011 | 9:44 pm

    Great story! We must have control of our food supply. Nobody has the right to tell me what to purchase and consume from my local farmer. I am so blessed to milk my own goat and know exactly where my milk comes from!

  14. Kelly
    June 14, 2011 | 12:09 am

    We started raising goats two years ago to have access to raw milk. We tried a cow too, but she was stubborn and disagreeable. It hurts when a goat steps on your foot, but it REALLY hurts when a cow kicks you to keep your hands off her teats.

    These laws are unconstitutional and will hopefully end up in court to be reversed.

  15. Mary Light via Facebook
    June 14, 2011 | 4:55 am

    We all bought “the herd” when we pay our 25$ a year to be members of the farm co-op. It’s a nominal sum to get that little issue out of the way- then it is Our Milk, and technically, we can do whatever we want with it, as it is not being sold in stores . The dairy actually meets it’s members at convenient pick up locations. It is win win for all, hopefully- they don’t sell it from the farm, and it is “our” milk in the first place.

  16. Mary Light via Facebook
    June 14, 2011 | 4:57 am

    Our milk, our cheese, our eggs, meat, cottage cheese, kefir, our sour cream, yogurt, our pet meat, dog bones…. ; )

  17. Hayley
    June 14, 2011 | 7:16 am

    Is there a petition against the bill somewhere that I can sign? I REALLY don’t like the fact that it’s okay to keep cows in horrendous conditions (ankle deep in manure), or use ammonia on MEAT, but it’s not okay for a farmer to sell his goods.

  18. Krys Bush via Facebook
    June 14, 2011 | 1:34 pm

    It amazes me how the FDA has no clue about real food. It disgusts me the things they allow into our food system but heaven forbid we actually eat real food. Good for the group in Kentucky! I’d stand up to the gov as well!

  19. Chris
    June 16, 2011 | 2:26 am

    Why are people amazed at the FDA. They are just doing what they were created to do. They are a corporation created to protect the interests of the pharmaceutical CORPS.

    People reading this might not get it the first time but in the land of fictional(Mort), the CORPORATIONS that exist only on paper can only do what they do by consent. “Your” GOVERNMENT being another one. You wouldn’t let Mc$hit tell you what to do would you now would you.

    It’s really simple with a bit of contract law knowledge. Conditional acceptance to avoid controversy and therefore cannot be brought before a judge, on presentation of a lawful contract. I’ll leave it up to readers of this to look up what constitutes a lawful contract.

  20. betty hughes
    June 16, 2011 | 10:03 pm

    Are we not a free UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!!! It sure can’t be so if we have some big fda telling us what to buy and what not to buy. We us the U S need alot of prayer for help in this messed up fda. I do love my RAW MILK, thank you my farmers.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.