Full list: Agriculture in the News

11/20 Update: Join Us for Black Market Bounty!

Join us for “Black Market Bounty”
a Potluck and evening of Storytelling
Sun. Nov. 24, 6PM, Unitarian Church, Montpelier
 In this update:
FromDirectorMessage from The Director Dear Members & Friends:

In response to my last message, a long-time and staunchly loyal Rural Vermont member wrote back to me: “Too many words!” He had a point. Searching for brevity (let alone achieving it) is a constant quest for me – indeed for all of us at Rural Vermont. We have a lot of stories to share!

Our challenge is that we often work on issues that are complex and we’re often part of stories that have many chapters – indeed, some go on for years. That challenge is compounded by the fact that YOU, our audience, is diverse. You are farmers and customers, advocates and legislators, chefs and food producers, educators and students, long-time Vermonters and “wannabe” Vermonters… and you have different interests, points of view and frankly, attention spans.

So here is my short(er) message: Read on and follow the links below for lots of information and opportunities – I’m confident you will find something of value to you.

Also, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for this opportunity I have (however brief) to address this wonderful community of people who care about our farms and our food. Thanks!

Wishing you a bountiful holiday,

Andrea

P.S. Here is a poem I like to turn to at this time of the year:

BlackMarket

“Black Market Bounty” Storytelling & Potluck
THIS SUNDAY! November 24th, 6 – 8:30 pm
Unitarian Church, 130 Main St., MONTPELIER

All are welcome! FREE!
Donations appreciated and
please consider becoming a member of Rural Vermont


NOTE: Please bring a potluck dish to share and a place setting! 

Rural Vermont’s “Black Market Bounty” evening begins with a shared potluck meal highlighting Vermont’s abundant harvest, and continues with true stories about making, raising, accessing, selling, and sourcing the best food you CAN’T buy. 

Why is it that many of Vermont’s traditional farm fresh foods are so hard to come by?
Photo courtesy of Local Banquet.

Following supper, you’ll will be entertained and intrigued by true stories about Vermont’s veritable underground railroad of farm fresh foods. The storyteller line-up includes diverse personalities and styles. The evening will be emceed by farmer & author Ben Hewitt.  These true stories will shed light on different aspects of Vermont’s thriving fresh food “black market.”

Some stories will be lighthearted and fun. Others will be serious and powerful. All will make you question why some of the highest quality foods being produced in Vermont are illegal to sell, and therefore banished to back alley transactions and late night covert deliveries, as described by one featured storyteller.

Want a taste?

“How does one cup of raw milk drive two people in love completely insane?”

“I’ve got a broken rib, an 8 1/2 month pregnant wife – perfect time to get a cow, right??”

“I’ve lassoed a 1200 pound steer and I’m holding the rope. Now what?”

Hungry for more? Check out the press release and website for more details. Join the Facebook event, and invite friends to do the same!
MilkAction

FARM FRESH MILK CAMPAIGN
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP NOW: 
If you produced raw milk at any time during 2013, please complete Rural Vermont’s 2013 Raw Milk Survey. This data (which is kept completely confidential) is essential for the preparation of our Annual Raw Milk Report to the Vermont Legislature which we will be presenting in early January. We need this year’s report to have the largest possible number of responses to help support our effort to pass a bill to improve the raw milk law.
You can complete the survey online, get a paper copy in the mail by contacting Rural Vermont Organizer, Robb Kidd or by calling the Rural Vermont office at 223-7222.
IMPORTANT: If you are a raw milk customer, please make sure your farmer completes the Raw Milk Survey!
 
If you would like to get involved in supporting our Farm Fresh Milk Campaign, there are lots of opportunities at the local level and at the State House – please contact Robb Kidd for more information.
FSMA

ONE LAST CHANCE TO TELL THE FDA: Fix FSMA!

Due to repeated problems with their online comment website, the FDA has extended the deadline for submitting comments on the two proposed FSMA rules to Fri. Nov. 22.

Thanks to Rep. Peter Welch for pressing the FDA to acknowledge that many people were prevented from submitting comments due to their comment website being unavailable numerous times in the past couple weeks.
(Seems to be a common problem these days!) 

If you farm or you eat, the FDA needs to hear from you
by Fri., Nov. 22.


Go to our website for links to information and assistance in submitting your comments.

Additional information is available through our friends at

In Farming Magazine, Vern Grubinger has written a very accessible and comprehensive analysis of the proposed FSMA rules and offers suggestions for alternative solutions.
Please contact Andrea Stander if you have questions or have any trouble accessing any of these materials.
Interns
Rural Vermont is Seeking Winter/Spring Interns
Come work with us!
Rural Vermont is seeking to fill
several internship positions for the winter/spring semester
(beginning in January or earlier)

Complete descriptions are available on our website.
For more info or to apply, email or call Mollie at the Rural Vermont office 802-223-7222.

“[The internship with Rural Vermont] was the first job where I was advocating for something I cared about, and it fostered an intense, self-growth that I do not think I could’ve gained elsewhere. After traveling all over the state, I have really increased my sense-of-place in Vermont, and with that increased awareness I think I figured out a lot about myself, my values, and what I care about. Going into the future, I know I want agriculture and education to be two major parts of my life, and without my experience this summer, I can’t say I would’ve found my way to where I am now.”

– Samantha Frawley, summer 2013 outreach intern

Interns are a crucial part of our team, especially during the Legislative Session.These positions are open until filled.

VolunteersVITAL NEED FOR VOLUNTEERS:

Do you have some time and skills to contribute? As we gear up for our upcoming fall events and the legislative session, Rural Vermont needs your help!

Contact Robb Kidd if you’re interested in helping out with any of the below, or if you’d like to be kept informed about future volunteer opportunities.

Upcoming Opportunities:

This week! “Black Market Bounty” invite calls: If you have a couple hours to make friendly phone calls inviting Montpelier area folks to Sunday night’s event, Rural Vermont will provide a call list and script. These calls can be made from our office or from your home

Sat, Nov 23, 10am-2pm at the Thanksgiving Farmers Market in Montpelier: Looking for one more person! 10-12 or 12-2 shift — hand out invites to shoppers and vendors for the “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling & Potluck event.

Rural Vermont could not accomplish nearly as much as we do without our incredible volunteers. Our staff and Board recognize that your time is valuable, and we’re grateful to everyone who can contribute in this way to support our work.

Thank You!
At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to get things done 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 be economically viable 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

Mother Jones: Big Food Wants to Crush the GMO Labeling Movement

By Tom Philpott
Nov. 8, 2013
Full Article

In my post yesterday on the defeat of Washington state’s GMO labeling initiative, I speculated that the junk-food industry, which had poured millions into defeating the measure, might support a national label.

My logic was this: Coke, Pepsi, Nestlé, etc, profitably operate in Europe, where GMO ingredients are scarce and labeling is mandatory. Presumably, they could do so in the United States, too. Eventually, I figured, they’d tire of fighting the agrichemical/GMO seed industry’s fight. I pointed to a statement made yesterday by the Big Food trade group the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), to the effect that it would advocate for “national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients.”

Boy, was I naive. According to GMA documents uncovered by the public-health lawyer and writer Michele Simon, Big Food has no intention of laying down its lobbying or campaign finance swords on the labeling fight. Quite the opposite, in fact. Simon got hold of the documents after the Washington state Attorney General’s Office sued the GMA for having “illegally collected and spent more than $7 million” to fight the labeling initiative “while shielding the identity of its contributors.” To settle the matter, GMA revealed the names of the companies, which turned out to include Pepsi, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Nestlé USA.

Even so, the docs contain some juicy stuff. Scroll down to the February 18, 2013, “Privileged and Confidential Memorandum” document, which spells out GMA’s labeling agenda. It reports that at a January 19 meeting, GMA’s board of directors “coalesced in support of a multi-pronged approach” to “address the challenges presented by proposals for mandatory labeling of any product containing GMOs.” Here’s what came next:

The key bit is number three: “Pursue a statutory federal preemption which does not include a labeling requirement.” Translation: GMA is pushing for a federal law that not only frees the industry from the burden of a national label, but that would also preempt any state labeling requirement. And the group is lining up cash—”a long-range funding mechanism”—for the effort. And it’s planning to “oppose all state legislation” in the meanwhile. The GMA did not return my calls seeking comment on the documents.

Message: Proponents of GMO labeling face the lavishly funded opposition of Big Food—a powerful ally for the agrichemical/GMO industry in the battle against labeling.


Environmental Leader: Non-GMO Food Market to Hit $800 Billion by 2017

November 12, 2013
Full Article

Global sales of non-GMO food and beverage products will double to $800 billion by 2017, growth largely driven by demand in Europe and the US, according to a report by Packaged Facts.

The report, Non-GMO Foods: Global Market Perspective, says European consumers have rejected foods made using ingredients with genetically modified organisms, forcing international food companies such as Unilever, Nestlé and Coca-Cola to introduce or begin to develop non-GMO versions of their products. These international food and beverage manufacturers are eager to please French, Italian and other European consumers, the report says.

At least 60 countries have adopted some type of labeling that notifies consumers there is a percentage of GMO ingredients present in a product. Around 130 countries have no labeling regulations, the report says.

Despite growing demand for non-GMO products, many of these same companies and other food industry giants such as PepsiCo and General Mills have contributed millions of dollars either directly or through the Grocery Manufacturers Association trade organization to ongoing campaigns in the US to prevent mandatory labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, the report says.

Environmentalist and shareholder advocacy groups filed resolutions this fall urging Monsanto, DuPont de Nemours and Dow Chemical to stop using corporate funds to fight the Initiative 522 referendum in Washington that would have required special labels on raw and processed foods made from genetically modified crops. Opponents donated $22 million to defeat the initiative, with only $550 of that coming from state residents, reported the Seattle Times. The majority of donations came from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience, according to the Seattle Times.

The initiative, which was on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, was rejected by voters. If it had passed, it would have made Washington the first state to require labeling of genetically engineered foods.


WCAX: Vt aims to become hub of food systems education

Vermont colleges are combining forces to study food production.
11/7/13
Full Article

The Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium is a partnership between seven of the state’s higher education institutions. Their goal is to attract bright students from around the world to strengthen Vermont’s agricultural education. Each school will let their students take courses in agriculture at any of the participating schools. The group hopes to boost Vermont’s image as the nation’s leader in food systems education.

“You won’t find five more unique institutions that can contribute to the value of studying agriculture in state — that’s why Vermont is great. The Vermont brand is well known around the country and around the world and people want to come to Vermont to learn how to do what we do,” said Phil Conroy/ with Vermont Technical College.


Mother Jones: 4 Foods That Could Disappear If New Food Safety Rules Pass

By Tom PhilpottWed Nov. 6, 2013
Full Article

When President Obama signed into law an overhaul of the nation’s food safety regime in early 2011, it was clear that the system needed a kick in the pants. Recent salmonella outbreaks involving a dizzying array of peanut products and a half billion eggs had revealed a dysfunctional, porous regulatory environment for the nation’s increasingly concentrated food system.

The law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was a pretty modest piece of work when it came to reining in massive operations that can sicken thousands nationwide with a single day’s output. No surprise, since Big Food’s main lobbying group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, notes on its web site that “GMA worked closely with legislators to craft the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and will work closely with the FDA to develop rules and guidance to implement the provisions of this new law.” (Food and Water Watch summarizes FSMA here; Elanor Starmer lists some of its limitations here.)

Even for many supporters of food safety reform, one persistent question has long been whether the new rules would steamroll small and midsize farms. Obviously, what would be a light burden for a multinational giant like, say, Kraft Foods, could be a crushing one for a farm that sells its produce at a farmers market. To allay fears of one-size-fits-all regulations—which swirled in sometimes-wildly paranoid forms during the FSMA debate—Congress exempted most operations with sales of less than $500,000 from most of its requirements. But the proof of is in the rule-making—the process by which federal agencies, in this case the Food and Drug Administration, translate Congressional legislation into enforceable law. Congress intended its exemption to save small farms from overly burdensome regulation, but the question remained: How would the FDA put it into action?

Finally, more than two years after Obama signed FSMA, the FDA’s rule-making process appears to be nearing an end. And I’m disappointed to report that, according to decidedly nonparanoid, noncrazy observers, the proposed rules as currently written represent a significant and possibly devastating burden to small and midsize players.

If you’ll excuse the gimmick, here are four foods that could go missing if the FDA sticks to the current version of its food-safety rules.

1. The local, organic carrots in your kid’s school lunch program. Many farm-to-school programs are facilitated by what the US Department of Agriculture calls food hubs—operations that gather produce from small farmers and sell it, usually to buyers like schools, restaurants, and retailers. The USDA actively promotes them as “strong and sound infrastructure support to producers across the country which will also help build a stronger regional food system.” The USDA lists more then 100 active food hubs nationwide.

The new rules imperil food hubs in two ways. The first is through the farms that supply them. The new law’s less-than-$500,000 exemption applies only to farms that sell more than half of their produce directly to consumers. But a growing number of small farms earn a significant amount of their income selling to third-party local enterprises like food hubs and food co-ops—and if revenue from those sources exceeds half of total revenue, these farms would lose their exemption and become subject to costly requirements.

Then there’s the problem that the FDA’s proposed rules have not settled upon a definition of “very small business.” If such a definition isn’t spelled out, NSAC warns, operations like food hubs could be “regulated well beyond their risk and with compliance costs too high for them to stay in business.”

2. The kohlrabi in your farm-share box. You might be annoyed by the amount of kohlrabi (a grievously underrated vegetable) in your CSA, but probably don’t want it to disappear altogether. But because the current proposal doesn’t narrowly define “manufacturing facilities,” CSAs and other “direct farmer-to-consumer farms that do light processing activities or include produce from another farm in their boxes will be subject to inappropriate, excessive regulations designed for industrial food facilities,” NSAC states.

3. The pickles peddled by your favorite hipster farmer. Small value-added operations—like artisanal pickle and salsa makers—are also endangered by these hazy definitions. Indeed, the proposed rules “treat pickles like a dangerous substance,” NSAC reports. The FDA does not consider fermentation (pickling) or canning to to be “low-risk” activities, and thus operations that engage in them, no matter how small, will be subject to an onerous thing called the Preventative Control Rule—a set of requirements that make sense for a huge factory but not so much for the farm that produces your prized kimchi.

4. The local, organic spinach you’re hooked on. For me, perhaps the most galling aspect of the proposed FSMA rules involves compost and manure—the lifeblood of soil fertility on organic farms. Under the USDA’s organic standards for crops that come into contact with the soil, like greens, farmers can apply raw manure to soil as long as it’s at least four months prior to crop harvest. Most organic farmers I know apply manure in November and plant their first cash crops in April, harvesting some of them, like salad greens, soon after. That’s a five-to-six-month gap. The FDA’s new rules would push the limit for all farms to nine months, making the fertility programs that drive organic farming essentially illegal, and also directly contradicting the FSMA itself, which had stipulated that the new safety safety rules should not conflict with the National Organic Program, NSAC reports.

The nation deserves a food safety regime that focuses on real threats while not imposing the same regulatory burden on, say, a CSA or a diversified vegetable farm as it does a giant peanut-paste factory. As Ariane Lotti, NSAC’s assistant policy director, told me, “If the proposed regulations are finalized without changes, they will unjustifiably create barriers to sustainable and organic farming, chill the growth in local and regional food systems, and further consolidate farming into the hands of the few who can afford to comply with expensive requirements.”

The FDA is accepting public comments on its proposed rules until November 15.


Capital Press: Oregon to post hemp rules by planting time

11/6/13
By Eric Mortenson
Oregon ag department hopes to approve hemp production rules in time for spring planting, but financing is another question.
Full Article

The prospect of Oregon farmers growing hemp has the region’s largest agricultural lender scratching its head about how to proceed.

Although questions remain about the federal legality of growing hemp for fiber, oil, cosmetics and foods, the Oregon Department of Agriculture intends to adopt production rules in time for spring planting should farmers want to go that route, department spokesman Bruce Pokarney said. Whether farmers could get financing, as they routinely do to produce other crops, is an open question.

Northwest Farm Credit Services, the lending cooperative that specializes in loans to farmers and ranchers, hasn’t taken a position on providing money to hemp growers, regional Vice President Bob Boyle said. Most likely, it would be treated as other commodities.

“The key things you look at in financing a crop are, is there a legitimate market,” Boyle said. “And if it’s grown, will it produce enough revenue to support repayment of the loan?

“Here, you have an unknown, and along with it a number of issues that are yet to be resolved,” he said.

The organization’s board of directors, made up primarily of farmers, most likely would have to decide whether to finance hemp operations, Boyle said.

“We’ve got to be absolutely confident that production is legitimate and the market for that product is defined, and that if a contract exists for production, that it’s valid,” he said.

The Oregon Legislature passed a law approving industrial hemp cultivation in 2009, but it was never implemented because the federal government continued to classify hemp as an illegal drug like its cousin, marijuana.

Hemp’s legal status may have changed. The federal justice department said this summer it won’t prosecute cases in states such as Washington and Colorado that legalize and regulate marijuana. The U.S. attorney for Oregon, in what may have been an offhand remark, said the decision applies to hemp production in Oregon, because the state’s 2009 law provides the required “robust” regulatory structure.

The state ag department, however, has decided to prepare just in case. Pokarney, the department spokesman, said eight or nine people will be appointed to a rules committee. Members will include potential growers and end users – people who would use the seeds or fiber. Russ Karow, head of the Crop and Soil Science Department at Oregon State University, will be among the committee members, Pokarney said.

The rules proposed by committee members will be subject to a public hearing. “There will be plenty of scrutiny of what we put together,” Pokarney said.

Oregon’s law requires hemp growers and manufacturers to obtain a permit from the state. The statue requires a minimum growing operation of 2.5 acres. THC levels would have to be certified as well.


Denver Post: Colorado hemp task force unveils regulations for legal farming

11/6/13
By Steve Raabe
Full Article

Colorado officials unveiled regulations Wednesday for legal hemp growing, setting the stage for a new agricultural industry.

Hemp advocates at a public meeting in Lakewood said the crop’s potential is great. But they said development might be slowed by the plant’s continued illegal status under federal law.

That will create problems for farmers in procuring hemp seed to start their crops, speakers said.

Amendment 64, the 2012 Colorado ballot initiative that legalized marijuana, also provided for state licensing of industrial hemp farming.

Hemp is a marijuana look-alike but contains little or no THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis that makes users high. Hemp and its oil-rich seeds have dozens of uses in foods, cosmetics, textiles and construction materials.

The new state regulations call for farmers to register and pay a $200 annual fee, plus $1 per acre planted. Farms will be subject to inspections to make sure that the hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent THC.

The rules, created by an industrial hemp advisory committee, will be submitted next week for approval by commissioners of the state Department of Agriculture.

Baca County farmer Ryan Loflin grew and harvested a 55-acre hemp crop this year, choosing to not wait for the state regulations. It was the nation’s first commercial hemp crop in 56 years.

Christopher Boucher of San Diego-based US Hemp Oil said his company plans to build a facility to process hemp-seed oil in the San Luis Valley. The plant initially could employ six to eight workers and grow to 50 or 60 employees, depending on the acreage planted in Colorado.

But he said the facility can’t start until farmers have assurance that they can buy starter seeds. Because of the federal ban on nonsterile hemp seeds, growers could in theory face criminal charges or have their foreign seed shipments confiscated by U.S. Customs agents.


Seattle Times: I-522 trails in all but 4 counties

11/6/13
Initiative 522, a proposal to require labeling of some genetically modified foods, was trailing in first-night returns in all but four counties.
By Sandi Doughton
Full Article

Washington voters Tuesday were rejecting a measure that would have made the state the first in the nation to require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The measure trailed 45 to 55 percent — a margin that appeared impossible to overcome.

It was a stunning reversal for an initiative that two-thirds of voters supported in early polls.

But opponents, backed by Monsanto and other large agribusinesses, outspent proponents by a ratio of nearly 3-to-1, making the initiative campaign one of the costliest in state history.

A blitz of critical ads appeared to change voters’ minds.

Pro-Initiative 522 campaign manager Delana Jones was not ready to concede, pointing out that as many as 300,000 projected ballots remained to be counted in King County, where the measure was winning handily. “It’s too close to call,” she said.

“Win or lose, this is a long war,” said David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, the initiative’s biggest donor. “Labeling is inevitable.”

The measure led in only three counties in addition to King — Whatcom, Jefferson and San Juan.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee and a co-chair of the “Yes” campaign, said an upside of the election is that now 90 percent of Washington residents know what genetically engineered foods are. “The movement continues,” he said.

Supporters argued that consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.

Opponents called the labeling plan flawed and misleading and said it would only scare consumers away from a promising technology.

The initiative campaign put Washington at center stage in debates over both genetic engineering and the role of out-of-state funding in elections.

With $22 million in donations, the “No” campaign set a record for fundraising by one side in an initiative battle in Washington. Only $550 of that total came from state residents. The biggest donors included the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience, all heavily invested in genetically engineered crops.

Almost 70 percent of the funding for the “Yes” campaign came from out-of-state businesses and organizations, led by California-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. But supporters also included about 10,000 individuals, many of them Washington residents, who gave amounts ranging from $2 to $20,000.

The approximately $30 million raised by both sides made the race the second-highest spending initiative in Washington history, after the 2011 liquor-privatization measure and its $32.5 million in donations.

The measure would have mandated labels on the front of food packaging. Genetically engineered produce and meat from genetically engineered animals and fish also would have been labeled.

Similar laws were passed recently in Maine and Connecticut, but won’t go into effect unless neighboring states opt in.

A measure nearly identical to Washington’s was defeated in California last year, after the same alliance of food-industry giants outspent labeling proponents by a ratio of nearly 5-to-1.

The issue isn’t likely to die soon. Groups opposed to genetic engineering are already planning a 2014 initiative in Oregon.


WCAX: Raw milk producers discuss legislative fix

Oct 27, 2013
Full Article and video

BETHEL, Vt. -Raw milk dairy producers met early Sunday morning, hoping to have their voices heard.

Four  years ago, lawmakers allowed producers to sell milk on their farms. A Senate bill introduced last session would have allowed larger producers to sell off the farm.  Small scale farmers weren’t included due to ongoing health concerns about the non-pasteurized product.

Right now, the raw milk law limits how much milk a farmer can sell and where they sell it — limits that smaller producers say are hurting business.

“I would say that the gateway place is the farmer’s market — and the critical place,” said Mark McAfee, the founder of Organic Pastures Dairy in California. He says the first step to getting raw milk in the mainstream marketplace is education. “If every dairy farmer is a dairy educator, there will never be enough raw milk for anybody to sell,” he said.

Standers says concerns — like high expenses for testing dairy cows — place limits on small scale raw dairy production.”If you’re being required to meet all sorts of inspections and testing and so on and so forth, it isn’t fair to be restricted in how much product you can sell,” she said

Rural Vermont plans to introduce a new broad-based raw milk bill in the 2014 legislative session and continue the conversation about how to create a larger market for raw milk.


Valley News: Farmers Want Laws Eased: Raw Milk Summit Challenges Vermont Regulations

By Jordan Cuddemi
October 28, 2013
Full Article

Bethel — Vegetables, meats and eggs are just a few items that can be bought at most any Vermont farmers’ market.

But one of the products that can’t be found is raw milk.

Vermont has a two-tiered regulatory system that stipulates how farmers must produce and sell raw milk, also known as unpasteurized or unprocessed milk. The regulations limit the quantity of milk a farmer can sell and also where he or she can sell it.

More than 60 farmers and interested citizens convened inside Bethel’s Old Town Hall on Sunday for Rural Vermont’s Raw Milk Summit to discuss those regulations. The group wants to figure out how to give farmers more flexibility in producing and selling their milk to increase market share.

“If they are going to regulate the quality of our milk then they should not limit the quantity that we can sell because there is no other agricultural product that once we meet the regulations that the quantity of sale is limited,” said Cynthia Larson who owns a farm with her husband and produces Grade A dairy and raw milk at a tier one rank. “If they want to not regulate us at all then I can see the justification for limiting the risk by limiting the quantity, but both seems inappropriate to me.”

Only two farmers in Vermont meet tier two standards, which allows sales of up to 40 gallons a day and some home deliveries, said Andrea Stander, executive director of Rural Vermont, an advocacy group for family farms, adding that gaining tier two status is not easy. More obtainable, yet still difficult, is the tier one classification, which permit farmers to sell up to 12.6 gallons per day but the milk must be sold directly to the consumer at the farm. Raw milk cannot be sold at farmers markets or in stores, according to state law.

“It comes down to the big issue — are the inspectors there to help or are they there to police and shut you down,” Stander said, in response to a few attendees at the summit on Sunday who said it took them multiple times to pass inspection and gain tier one status. “In this state so much is focused on local food and it’s a travesty that so many fear the agency of agriculture.

“Locally owned community stores should be able to sell (raw) milk,” said Stander. “It’s just another local product that people would like to be able to buy.”

At Sunday’s raw milk summit, attendees discussed working toward creating another tier that would allow farmers to sell at a “neighborly scale” with limited to no regulations, allow for sale of lightly processed raw dairy products, and developing reasonable animal health testing protocols, among other suggestions.

Ben Crockett, who started a farm in Brattleboro a couple of years ago and sells raw milk as a tier one distributor, said the regulations that need to be met are difficult and financial obligations associated with meeting animal testing protocols create a barrier for new farmers wishing to get started.

“For those who are interested in raising a cow and selling some milk, it can be a real deterrent,” Crockett said.

Many who were present on Sunday talked about the benefits of drinking raw versus pasteurized milk, which is commonly found on shelves at grocery stores. Pasteurization is the process of killing bad bacteria by heating milk to a certain temperature for a set period of time, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mark McAfee, chairman of the Raw Milk Institute and owner of Organic Pastures Dairy, the world’s largest and widest consumed raw milk brand in California, put it more simply.

“We forget, breast milk is raw milk,” McAfee said, adding raw milk in California is legal, but strictly regulated. “Why do babies drink raw milk? Why?

“Raw milk has the perfect combination of sugars and the bacteria to nourish the immune system for the baby, that’s why,” he said. “And raw milk from a cow does exactly the same thing, not quite as good as breast milk, but, boy, pretty close.”

“When you have limitations and you can’t produce more than 25 quarts a day or 50 gallons a day, does that mean that the 26th quart or the 51st gallon is unsafe, but the 50th gallon is safe?” he said. “Why are they putting a cap on it?”

The reason why Vermont has placed such strict limitations on the amount of raw milk a farmer can sell and where he or she can sell is because “we are a dairy state,” Stander said.

“A large part of our agricultural economy comes from so called conventional or commercial dairy and that sector of the agricultural economy has a lot of influence on our policymakers and on our regulators,” she added, noting increased sales of raw milk could pose an economic threat to the conventional or commercial dairy industry that produces and sells pasteurized milk. But Stander said that is not what local farmers who are looking to produce and sell raw milk are doing.

“We don’t want to pit farmers against each other,” she said. “We are trying to create an economic opportunity for everyone.”

In order to do so, she and others said quantity restrictions must be lifted.

Raw milk can be found at farmers markets across the river in New Hampshire, though

“New Hampshire is not a dairy state,” Stander said. “They don’t have a big percentage of their agricultural economy coming from dairy.