Author Archives: Mollie

VT Digger: Vermont will be first state in nation to require GMO labeling

John Herrick
Apr. 23 2014
Full Article

Vermont will likely be the first state in the nation to require food manufacturers to label products containing genetically modified organisms.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday he will sign Vermont’s GMO labeling bill into law. His announcement came just minutes after the House gave H.112 final legislative approval by a 114-30 vote.

“I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food,” Shumlin said in a statement. “Vermont has led the local food movement that is better connecting people nationwide with the food they eat.”

The bill would take effect July 1, 2016. Other states have labeling laws that go into effect when neighboring states pass similar policies.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, has been pushing for GMO labeling for much of his career in the state Legislature. Zuckerman was first elected to the House in 1996.

“Vermont has now put a stake in the sand around food transparency, and it may well help create that across the country, much as we did with marriage equality and other historic measures,” Zuckerman said.

There will be challenges ahead, he said.

“There is no doubt that there is a risk of a legal challenge by the food manufacturers. And my hope that they would rather comply with people’s wishes rather than hide behind legal arguments to keep their food opaque,” Zuckerman said. “To me food transparency is as important as government transparency.”

House Speaker Shap Smith said in a statement: “Every Vermonter has a right to know what is in their food. Genetically engineered foods potentially pose risks to human health and the environment. I am proud to be the first state in the nation to recognize that people deserve to know whether the food they consume is genetically modified or engineered.”

The potential for litigation was among the top concern lawmakers opposing the bill raised on Wednesday. Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who anticipates a lawsuit, estimated the cost of litigation at $1 million if the state were to win. A loss would cost $5 million or more.

That’s why the bill sets up a $1.5 million special fund reserved for defending the state in court. This money would be raised from state appropriations, private donations and settlement proceeds.

The Vermont Attorney General has defended two high profile laws passed by the Legislature that have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, including a law restricting campaign contributions and another statute that restricted the resale of doctors’ prescription records. Both state statutes, the court ruled, violated the First Amendment.

The majority of commodity crops sold in the U.S. are genetically engineered. Corn, soybeans and cotton used in many packaged snack foods, sweeteners and cereals contain genetically modified organisms.

The biotechnology industry, which manufactures genetically engineered food products, opposes Vermont’s legislation.

But Daniel Barlow, a lobbyist for the trade group Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, said the bill will give Vermont businesses and retailers a competitive advantage in the region.

“Once Vermont’s known as a state where our food is labeled, people from New Hampshire, people from New York and people from Massachusetts will come here to shop for their groceries,” Barlow said. “Because they know that when they go in the grocery store they are going to have more information here than they will back home.”

Scientists disagree on whether consuming genetically engineered food products is harmful to human health, but proponents of the initiative say it’s about consumer information. Environmentalists point out that genetically engineered crops allow for heavy application of weed killers, and U.S. farmers this year are using more herbicides to kill off herbicide-resistant “superweeds.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is pushing for federal labeling reform, congratulated the Vermont Legislature on Wednesday.

“I am very proud our small state stood up to Monsanto and other multi-national food conglomerates and is taking the lead in a movement to allow the people of our country to know what is in the food that they eat,” Sanders said in a statement.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 25 states have introduced GMO labeling bills this year.

“I do think that this is a model that other states can look to in passing other legislation,” said Falko Schilling, a lobbyist for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “This is really a start to a much larger movement across the country.”

Animal products would not be covered by the legislation. But the Vermont Attorney General’s Office will report back to lawmakers next session on whether to require dairy products to be labeled.

A VTDigger/Castleton Polling Institute poll shows that 79 percent of Vermonters support GMO labeling.


The Bridge: The GMO Labeling Bill: Vermont Won’t Wait

By Amy Brooks Thornton
4/17/14
Full Article

Vermont has passed historic GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling legislation—the nation’s first GMO labeling law to be effective without the requisite that other states pass similar legislation. This “Right to Know” law, passed by 26 to 2 votes, requires food producers to state on food labels or, in the case of unwrapped produce, in bins or on shelving, whether food products contain GMOs or were produced using genetic engineering.

On April 16, the Vermont Senate approved the legislation with amendments to the House of Representatives’ version and will returning it to the House for approval of the proposed changes. If the House concurs, the law heads to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is likely to sign the bill.

Genetically engineered foods defined and argued

As defined by the World Health Organization, genetically modified foods are “derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism.” Although most genetically modified foods are derived from plants, development of foods from genetically engineered microorganisms and animals is likely.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, genetically engineered crops, including corn, cotton and soybeans, are grown on about half of the 169 million acres of US cropland. Topping the list of genetically engineered vegetables are corn, soy, zucchini, alfalfa, canola and, making up half of the U.S. sugar production, sugar beets. Eighty percent of processed foods include genetically modified ingredients.

Genetically modified food opponents argue that genetic engineering of food may interfere with environmental and human natural biological processes, alter or decrease naturally existing nutritional value in food and ultimately be unethical. Advocates contend that genetic engineering of food can increase nutritional value and crop production and create more weather and insect resilient plants.

“Whether the science is good or bad is not the question,” said Sen. Joe Benning, R- Caledonia. “The question is, does the consumer have the right to know?”

Vermonters want the right to know

According to Washington County Republican Sen. Bill Doyle’s Town Meeting Day survey, 76 percent of Vermonters who responded voted that food products sold in Vermont produced with genetic engineering should be labeled. Fifteen percent disapproved, and nine percent were undecided.

Vermont’s “Right to Know” bill, H.112, strives to empower the consumer “to make informed decisions regarding the potential health effects of food they purchase … the environmental impacts of their food,” and “disclose factual information and protect religious practices.”

Should there be a dairy exemption?

Should milk and products made primarily with milk, such as plain yogurt, butter and cheese,  be exempt from GMO labeling? If cows are fed corn, and the majority of corn grown in the United States is genetically engineered, there’s a good chance GMOs will be in your morning coffee—if you drink it with half and half.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, explains the complexity surrounding labeling dairy and meat. Strict federal labeling laws for dairy and meat already exist, but they do not require label information on genetically engineered feed given to the animals. The state of Vermont may not be able to override federal law due to federal preemption—when the federal government can invalidate a conflicting state law.

Federal law bars GMO labeling of dairy. But, because the Legislature wants to be sure not to appear to be creating legislation favoring Vermont’s dairy industry, the Right to Know legislation includes a study under the Office of the Attorney General. The study, due by Jan. 15, 2015, will recommend whether or not milk and products made primarily with milk should be labeled and the legal basis for the recommendation.

‘No’ to the trigger mechanism

And then there’s the issue of neighborly collaboration. Vermont may be the first state to approve a Right to Know GMO labeling law without a “trigger mechanism,” which would put the law’s implementation on hold until neighboring states follow suit. Maine and Connecticut have already approved GMO labeling legislation, but these include triggers. The rationale of waiting is that if states collectively passed GMO labeling laws, they would be able to pool resources to defend themselves against almost certain lawsuits from food associations, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

But Sen. Zuckerman believes that a food association could sue one state, compelling that state to defend itself alone without neighborhood collaboration. He doesn’t like the idea of passing a law that can’t be put into effect.

“The idea of passing with a trigger was, at best, passing the buck; at worst, duping our voters,” Zuckerman said. It’s “giving people a pipe dream. We either believe we have the evidence or we don’t. Let’s do it.”

Vermont may decide to move forward alone. Supporting the House decision not to wait for other states, the Senate approved a new date of July 1, 2016, for the law to become effective whether or not other states join in.

Funding our legal defense

To help alleviate the cost of legal defense against potential litigation from food associations, and hopefully reduce the burden to Vermont taxpayers, the Senate created a legal fund with a goal of $1.5 million. The attorney general can also use the fund to implement the legislation.

Monies for the fund can come from three places: gifts from individuals and public and private organizations, which is standard operating procedure for such special funds; excess monies from pending suits in the attorney general’s office; and, possibly, the 2016 state budget. If the fund does not reach $1.5 million by end of Fiscal Year 2015, the attorney general will make a budget request for funds to cover the gap.

However, Zuckerman doesn’t think the state will have to kick in. “I am extremely confident we will have $1.5 million in the fund,” he said. “There are people and organizations all across this country who would … be willing to help.”

Industry and consumer cost

Legal issues aside, will the industry pass the cost of labeling onto the consumer, increasing food prices? The Washington State Academy of Sciences, in its report Labeling of Foods Containing Genetically Modified Ingredients, found that the direct costs of mandatory labeling were notable.


04/23 Breaking News: GMO Bill Goes to Governor!

State House Applause04/23: Vermont legislature passes the nation’s first “no strings attached” GMO labeling bill! The House of Representatives voted 114 to 30 to concur with the Senate’s version of H.112, and the bill now heads to Governor Shumlin’s desk for his signature. See how your representative voted here.  More details on this page.

 

 


04/23: Raw Milk Delivery Bill (S.70) Heads to the House Floor

The House Agriculture Committee voted 4/22 to pass S.70 with amendments and send it to the floor of the House on Thursday, 4/24. You can read the Committee’s amended version of S.70 here.


04/22 ALERT! Breaking News & Call to Action!

State House ApplauseGMO LABELING BILL WILL HAVE ITS FINAL VOTE TOMORROW – WED. APRIL 23

Late this afternoon the House Ag Committee voted 9-2 to concur with the Senate’s amendments to H.112, the GMO Labeling Bill. They arrived at this decision after consultations with the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees. There was a lot of discussion, many questions were asked and in the end they agreed that the Senate did a good job of strengthening the bill.

NOW, the bill will go back to the floor of the House one more time for its final vote on Wed. The House session is scheduled to begin at 1PM and H.112 is first on their agenda. It will probably be over in the blink of an eye but if you want to come to Montpelier for this historic event, please do. Otherwise you can listen to the action on VPR’s live stream.

We hope Vermont will make history again tomorrow and the next stop will be the Governor’s desk. Stay tuned for news about that soon!

MEANWHILE…

RAW MILK DELIVERY BILL (S.70) HEADS TO THE HOUSE FLOOR ON THURS. APRIL 24 -
CALLS NEEDED NOW (See below for details)

The House Agriculture Committee showed off it’s multitasking skill by also voting to pass S.70 with amendments and send it to the floor of the House on Thursday. 4/24. You can read the Committee’s amended version of S.70 here.

Although the bill makes only modest improvements in providing greater access to raw milk, the process of taking testimony and debating the bill has significantly raised the profile of the issue and the level of respect for the farmers who produce this highly valued product. Many of the House Ag Committee members have expressed interest in pursuing further improvements next year.

BUT WE’RE GOING TO NEED YOUR HELP:
Because the legislative session will end in less than three weeks, it’s going to be a challenge to get S.70, as amended by the House Ag Committee, PASSED by the FULL HOUSE this week and then back over to the Senate to get them to concur before the session ends.

PLEASE CALL THE STATE HOUSE RIGHT AWAY: 828-2228
Leave a message for your Representative with the following information: Your name, town, phone number and the message: Please vote YES on S.70, the raw milk delivery bill as amended by the House Agriculture Committee.

If you have questions or need help contacting your legislator please contact Robb Kidd, Rural Vermont’s Organizer or call the office at 223-7222.

THANKS IN ADVANCE FOR TAKING ACTION – IF ENOUGH LEGISLATORS HEAR FROM THEIR CONSTITUENTS, WE CAN PASS THIS BILL AND MAKE RAW MILK MORE AVAILABLE.

The Rural Vermont Team


Reuters: Vermont Senate passes mandatory GMO food-labeling law

By Carey Gillam and Lisa Baertlein
April 16
Full Article

The Vermont Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would make the state the first in the United States to enact mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops.

“We are really excited that Vermont is going to be leading on this,” said Falko Schilling, a spokesman for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which backed the bill.

The bill, approved 28-2 by the Senate, has already passed the Vermont House of Representatives. It now goes back to the House to see if members will approve changes made by the Senate.

The law is set to take effect July 1, 2016.

The move in Vermont comes as the developers of genetically modified crops and U.S. grocery manufacturers push for passage of an opposing bill, introduced in Congress last week, that would nullify any state law that requires labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops.

The Vermont law passed by the Senate would do just that – processed foods that contain genetically modified corn, soybeans or other GMO ingredients and sold at retail outlets would have to be labeled as having been produced or partially produced with “genetic engineering.”

Andrea Stander, a spokesperson for the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition, said they expect the biotech industry to sue in an attempt to stop enactment of the bill. As such, the language of the bill includes formation of a fund that would pay legal bills.

“It’s not just Vermont,” said Stander. “This affects everyone who eats. Consumers all across the country have woken up to the fact that we’ve become an unregulated feeding experiment by the biotech industry. People want to know if their foods are made with these ingredients. This gives people the choice.”

Consumer groups say labeling is needed because of questions both about the safety of GM crops – known as GMOs – for human health and the environment.

The language of the Vermont bill states that foods made with genetically engineered crops “potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture, and the environment” and should be labeled.

Last October, a group of 93 international scientists issued a statement saying there was a lack of empirical and scientific evidence to support what they said were false claims the biotech industry was making about a “consensus” on safety.

The group said there needed to be more independent research as studies showing safety tend to be funded and backed by the biotech industry.

But GMO crop developers like Monsanto, and their backers say genetically modified crops are proven safe.

Ballot measures in California in 2012 and last year in Washington state narrowly lost after Monsanto and other GMO crop developers and members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association poured millions into campaigns to defeat the measures.

The Vermont bill makes it illegal to describe any food product containing GMOs as “natural” or “all natural.” Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont’s law contains no such trigger clause.


04/21 Alert: Vermont Leads

VERMONT SENATE LEADS
with a 28-2 VOTE on GMO Labeling Bill

 In this update:
FromDirector

Message from The Director
Dear Members & Friends:

Wow! What a whirlwind week. Between the historic vote in the Senate on the GMO bill and three days of intense testimony on raw milk it was really GOOD to see last Friday.

Meanwhile, Spring seems to have finally taken hold and with that comes the goodness of growth, green, and gratitude for all that we have.

Here’s hoping this week delivers more good weather and more good news.

Stay tuned!

Andrea

P.S. Please be in touch with any questions or if you’d like to join me at the State House between now and the end of the session ~ May 10th.
JOIN US FOR – HONK & WAVE FOR GMO LABELING
On Tuesday April 22 (Earth Day) from roughly 7AM-9AM, people all over Vermont and the United States will be standing on street corners holding signs, waving, and encouraging passing cars to “honk” to show their support for Vermont’s GMO Labeling bill.

You can find a Honk & Wave event near you or set one up in your community.

Rural Vermont and other activists will be gathering on the Winooski River Bridge at the intersection of Main Street and Route 2 in Montpelier. Call Andrea at 522-3284 for information. Bring your own sign or use one of ours.

See you there!

gmoVote

Senate Votes 28-2 to Pass GMO Labeling Bill

On Wed. April 16th, the VT Senate voted 28-2 to pass H.112 as amended. The bill would require labels on GMO foods sold in Vermont starting July 1st, 2016.

This overwhelming vote margin moved Vermont’s GMO Labeling bill one step closer to becoming law. The bill has been strengthened by each of the three Senate Committees that worked on the bill since the beginning of the session – Agriculture, Judiciary, and Appropriations. You can read a summary of the bill here, provided by VT Right to Know GMOs, or you can read the bill as amended and passed by the Senate here.

With exceptional leadership from Sen. David Zuckerman, Vice-Chair of the Ag Cmte, and Sen. Dick Sears, Chair of the Judiciary Cmte, Vermont is now poised to be first again – ensuring the health and safety of its citizens by providing them with essential information about what is in their food. Whether your concern stems from health, environmental, and religious values, H.112 gives people the right and information they need to make informed decisions about what they eat and feed their families.

Contact your Senator TODAY to thank them for their support of H.112.  You can also leave a phone message for them at the State House by calling 828-2228.

What’s Next?

This week the House of Representatives will consider H.112 and decide whether it will concur with the Senate amendments or whether it will request a conference committee to resolve differences. Right now all the relevant House Committees (Ag, Judiciary and Appropriations) are reviewing the bill. We are very hopeful that the House will agree with the work of the Senate. It is possible that a vote to concur could happen later this week.

If that happens, the bill will be on its way to Governor Shumlin’s desk to be signed into law, which would make Vermont the first state in the U.S. to require labeling of genetically engineered food.

YOUR VOICE MAY BE NEEDED ON SHORT NOTICE

Please stay tuned for Action Alerts from Rural Vermont or VT Right to Know GMOs.

If you have questions or need assistance contacting your legislators, contact Andrea Stander.

RawMilkMooving Milk ?

Over the past three weeks the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee has heard extensive testimony both for and against expanding access to raw milk through a bill which passed the Senate last year – S.70.

Rural Vermont members have told the Ag. Committee that comprehensive reform rather than piecemeal improvements of the raw milk law are needed to provide meaningful benefits to more farmers and their customers.

Rural Vermont Board Member Tamara Martin, with farmers Rich Larson and Ryan Hayes waiting to testify to the House Ag. Committee 4/15/14
Because S.70  passed the Senate last year, the House Ag Committee has the ability to make amendments and still pass the bill this session. The House Ag Committee will be reviewing final changes to S.70 on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30PM – it is possible they will vote the bill out at the end of the afternoon.

After the House Ag Cmte approves an amended bill, it will go to the floor of the House for a vote and if it passes there it will then go back to the Senate to hopefully concur with any changes. Rural Vermont will be working with key legislative leaders to ensure that our priorities are appropriately addressed.  

 

Time is tight (the legislative session will likely end around May 10th) so your help is needed:

 

If you a raw milk producer or a customer or just a supporter of freedom to choose your food, it is particularly important for you to TAKE ACTION NOW.  You have the ability to share your story and reasons for supporting improvements to the raw milk law with your legislator and that can make all the difference in how they vote.
 
Members of the House need to hear from you that amending S.70 to provide comprehensive improvements to Vermont’s raw milk law will increase economic opportunities for farmers and freedom of food access for consumers.

Please contact your Representative by calling the State House at (802) 828-2228 to leave a message – Please be prepared to state your name and town, the name of your representative, your message: Vote YES on S.70 as amended, and leave a phone number or email address and ask for a reply.   PLEASE let Rural Vermont know what you hear back from your representative – especially if they have questions we can help address.

Please contact Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd if you have questions, need assistance contacting your legislator, or want more information about how you can help the campaign.
education

FYI: FREE Webinar about VT On-Farm Slaughter Law and Regulations
 

On Thursday, April 24 from 2:00-3:00PM UVM Extension Service will host a FREE online Webinar about Vermont’s current On-Farm Slaughter Law and Regulations. The webinar will feature VT Agency of Agriculture Meat Section Chief Randy Quenneville and will offer the opportunity to ask questions. A number of Rural Vermont members and staff will be “attending” this webinar. If you are interested in this issue, we encourage you to join us and contribute your questions and concerns.

You can join the webinar here.

BACKGROUND:

During the 2013 legislative session, a Rural Vermont member’s bad experience with the current law concerning on-farm slaughter provided an opportunity to create more commonsense regulations. After extensive testimony before both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, language was added to the annual “Agricultural Housekeeping Bill” (H.515) that recognizes and legitimizes Vermont’s cultural tradition of on-farm slaughter as part of community-based food systems where neighbors feed neighbors. Rural Vermont is pleased that there is now a legal recognition of on-farm slaughter by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, however we are concerned by how the new law is being interpreted and enforced by the Agency.

After you participate in the webinar, or if you’re unable to participate but this is an issue that you are interested in, please contact Robb or Andrea to discuss how you can join the movement to strengthen sustainable, community-based food systems that value traditional on-farm slaughter practices.

LegUpdate

Other News from Under the Golden Dome

Due to the busy schedule this week with the GMO Labeling and Raw Milk bills, we will provide a more complete update on other legislative issues next week.

Stay tuned and feel free to contact Andrea Stander
if you have questions or need information about other bills.
IssuesInNewsRural Vermont Issues in the News
Here are some recent articles you may not have seen. Have an issue you’re passionate about? Consider starting a conversation with your neighbors by writing your own Letter to the Editor. Contact Robb Kidd if you need assistance.

At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization.
That means our ability to create changes that you care about
is directly tied to the number of members
who support our work.
Our credibility and power comes directly from you -
the people who share our values and our vision
for a community-based food system
that enables family farms to thrive and
offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.
To make this vision a reality,
we need you.

 

THANKS!
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure
 (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member) please contact Mollie Wills to find out your membership status.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: 
CALL – (802) 223-7222
WRITE or VISIT: Rural Vermont, 15 Barre Street, Montpelier, VT 05602

04/22 Milk Campaign Update

Over the past three weeks the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee has heard extensive testimony both for and against expanding access to raw milk through a bill which passed the Senate last year – S.70. You can read much of the testimony that has been presented here. 

Rural Vermont members have told the Ag. Committee that comprehensive reform rather than piecemeal improvements of the raw milk law are needed to provide meaningful benefits to more farmers and their customers.  Read more here.

Rural Vermont Board Member Tamara Martin, with farmers Rich Larson and Ryan Hayes waiting to testify to the House Ag. Committee 4/15/14

 


The Complete Patient: A Farmer, and Mom, Pleads for “Common Sense” Raw Milk Regs

Intro by David Gumpert, Article by Rural Vermont Board Member Tamara Martin
4/18/2014
Full Article

The  Vermont legislature is considering very narrow legislation (S 70) that would allow the two largest raw dairies in the state to deliver raw milk to customers at farmers markets. Not sell it, mind you, just drop it off to customers, so they don’t have to trek to the farms to pick it up. A Vermont House committee has been holding hearings on this proposal, listening to both proponents and opponents of raw milk. I was among proponents offering testimony. But in addition to outside “experts,” the legislative committee has also heard from a number of raw dairy farmers. I thought the testimony offered by one of them spoke very well to the issue of risk, as well as to the hidden economic implications of reduced raw milk availability. 

by Tamara Martin

 

Tamara Martin with two of her childrenTamara Martin with two of her children

My husband and I are co-owners and managers of Chandler Pond Farm in S. Wheelock, VT in the Northeast Kingdom. We are a diversified farm of 200 acres. We grow five acres of vegetables and berries, process 1,000 pastured chickens a year, as well as pastured pork, grass-fed beef, eggs, maple syrup, hay, and lastly, raw milk. This diverse model works for us as we direct market all of our products and are able to provide a wide variety of nutritious food for our local community, while keeping the family tradition of farming going strong. It also allows us not have all our income in one basket and lets our enterprises complement each other.

My husband is the fifth continuous generation in his family making a living farming in Vermont… There is a blue milk pitcher in our fridge feeding us and our three children, 8, 7 and 5, fresh milk since we began our family and started farming.

We currently market our products through several avenues—all local. We have a 45-member CSA, a farm stand on the farm, and we attend two farmers markets. The raw milk, of course, is only sold at the farm. We are a micro dairy. We milk two to four heritage breed cows, American Milking Devons, which don’t produce in large volume, but their milk is incredibly high quality. Milking Devons are known for their higher protein content as well as higher CLA’s and Omega- 3s, than most any other milk. Buying a product like this, pure Devon milk, anywhere but directly from the farm, is virtually impossible in Vermont. 

We don’t sell a large amount of milk, largely because of the location of our farm. Even if we were able to meet reasonable guidelines to sell at drop off points or markets, our dairy herd would never grow as large as many in Vermont. We chose this path of a micro dairy because it allows us to produce a high quality milk, and we are able to take care of cows and our milking systems to the degree of cleanliness and sanitation that we feel best about.  

Fresh milk sales in Vermont feel particularly challenging. I have personally done plenty of research and reading about regulations in other states such as New Hampshire, Maine, as well as accompanying statistics. I understand the desire for food safety, but only when balanced by common sense and the idea that people have an inherent right to choose the food that is best for their family, whether we agree or not. We can choose raw milk or Diet Coke, understanding the risks. It’s our choice. 

One has to realize that even before being a farmer, I am a mother. I am not interested in feeding my children an unsafe product. But I also am not interested in fear. I like to understand the risks and benefits and how it fits into the scheme of daily life. It is easy to read one scary story and have a knee-jerk reaction. When this happens to me, I force levelheadedness to take over. There are risks in everything. Do I allow my children to each poached eggs? Can they jump on a trampoline? Will I feed them raw milk from a source that I know to use the highest standards of sanitation and precaution? Do I allow them to visit Grandma in the hospital during flu season? Should they touch the grocery cart when norovirus is going around our small town? 

I can’t fear everything. I make decisions based on facts and risks. With all that said, we drink raw milk from our farm and have from others that we trust when we aren’t milking. I guess I feel the need to explain this, because I would never knowingly sell something I personally wouldn’t drink or feed my children just for economic benefit.

So let’s talk economics. It is hard to sell milk when your farm is just six miles out of town. I can’t imagine farms that are twenty miles out that have an excellent quality product and no customers.

In order to make your micro dairy profitable, you have to be able to sell a certain volume, with a certain bottom line. This is a business and our expenses are real,  as is our time. If it’s established that this product is safe, please, let us sell it and support our families by farming. If we’re selling lots of it, then the regulations should be appropriate. If we are just selling a few quarts a day, then let’s use our common sense in those regulations. Scale-appropriate rules are ideal in risk and economics.

I get dozens of requests from customers every summer who know I have milk for sale at the farm, to sell it at the market or even just bring it to town. I am constantly explaining to them that this is illegal. They’re always disappointed and sometimes even frustrated. They want to drink fresh milk, for their own reasons, but can’t afford the time and gas to come out to the farm every week.

Now I want to address really quickly what some of the realities of milk delivery to a market or central drop-off locations might look like at our farm. First off, understand that we currently bring a truckload of vegetables, eggs, as well as two or three coolers of frozen meat to two markets a week all summer. As well, bi- monthly winter markets. Keeping products chilled and high quality is always a concern and the biggest effort of farmers markets for many reasons. Number 1 being that NO ONE wants to sell (or try to, rather) substandard product. 

Bringing the meat in coolers frozen solid has always worked like a charm. The meat stays frozen even on the hottest days. We leave the lids on with a price list and open to let the customers choose their product then close them. No problems. Vegetables can be a difficult at times but we have found if they are prechilled prior to loading up for market with cold towels they do very well. Based on those experiences, I could imagine several scenarios for transporting and keeping milk chilled. I am always amazed at farmers’ ingenuity. For example the many different ways small micro dairies like ours have figured out how to chill milk in the time limit given to the right temps.

The initial ideas for us when thinking about transporting milk to market or central locations involve making sure the milk is adequately chilled ahead of time, plenty of ice packs and possibly an ice water bath with a small cooler of secondary ice packs to change out on particularly hot days. A min/max thermometer in our cooler etc. I urge you to allow drop off points and farmers sales and with a few COMMON SENSE guidelines and let us try at our hand at how we’ll do it. 

Currently there is a law to allow delivery to homes. In allowing drop off points and market sales, the last concern is what happens to the milk from the time it leaves the farmer to when it gets to the fridge. I tend to trust people to make good decisions. I know you or I would. At market currently I am constantly talking to people about keeping their product. Most customers, for example, when purchasing meat but maybe lingering at the market for lunch, will leave their meat in my cooler until they are ready to head home, I don’t tell them to do this, and they do it themselves because they are smart and can be trusted to figure out how to take care of their food. Others bring insulated bags or coolers in their cars with ice packs, the same goes actually for folks who buy milk at our farm. I don’t see how drop off points or markets really change anything. At some point we have to assume when making laws that people are smart, just like we assume they wash their cutting boards after cutting meat and wash their hands.

Lastly, one of the things that gets me most frustrated about food rights is the poverty and justice side of this issue. We’ve passed a law that says folks can buy this product, it is safe enough for that, BUT they’ll need to go to the farm, or live in the delivery area of the two farms delivering milk, AND be home when that delivery is supposed to come. What that says to me is, if you don’t own a car and have the gas, money and time to drive five to twenty miles or more you don’t actually have that right. It means this is a product available only to those who can afford it. It isn’t the market price that is not allowing them to feed themselves in the best way they believe possible, it’s the laws around the product, which by default have eliminated the families or persons who don’t make enough money to get it.

Many family and friends we know and love have been drinking raw milk for years. Hopefully, the disconnect of what is legal to eat at any given time and what generations of Vermonters have been eating and continue to eat is closing as we close the culture gap and the legal gap with common sense regulations and allow ALL Vermonters access to the food of their choosing whether they live near a farm or not. 


04/22 National “Honk & Wave” for GMO Labeling

Street corners all across the country!
During morning “drive time”

To visibly demonstrate the broad support for this bill we are calling for “honk and wave” events next Tuesday, April 22 (Earth Day) during morning “drive time” not just in Vermont but all across the country. Our national partners and supporters are helping to organize this.

Use this online tool to set up and share your local honk and wave!

In case you don’t know, a “honk and wave” is when you and your friends get some signs together, set up shop on a street corner (or highway overpass) and rally in front of motorists in support of GMO labeling. Please plan to snap a picture of your event and post it to the VT Right to Know Facebook page.

Rally your community for your very own Earth Day honk and wave!