Full list: Agriculture in the News

VPR: New Farm Bill Boosts Hemp Cultivation In Vermont

By Bob Kinzel
February 21, 2014
Tucked away in the thousands of pages of the Farm Bill is a provision that affects the 11 states that have legalized the growing of hemp. Vermont is part of this group.
Full Article & Audio

Vermont’s law was passed last year, but the ongoing opposition of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has had a chilling effect on the cultivation of hemp in the state.

The DEA considers hemp to be a form of marijuana. But backers of hemp point out that it has very low levels of the chemicals that make marijuana an intoxicant. And they argue that hemp should not be illegal. The new Farm Bill supports their position.

Under the legislation, educational institutions like the University of Vermont can conduct field trials to determine the best variety of hemp for weather conditions in Vermont.

Heather Darby, an agronomist at UVM, says she’s excited about this project.

“Now we have the backing from the Farm Bill in one part of the federal government and also the state,” said Darby. “So the doors are opening up. There obviously are still some barriers and challenges to making all this happen.”

Darby says she would feel more comfortable if the DEA would sign off on the project.

“We’re sort of working through that to make sure we have a strong go ahead from the federal government not just sort of a soft one, I guess,” said Darby. “Because we don’t want to be caught with some significant liability and issues as well if not everyone supports this.”

Darby says another challenge will be getting hemp seeds for the trial.

Robb Kidd is the hemp coordinator at Rural Vermont, a group that strongly supports the growing of hemp in the state.

“For Vermont farmers, we see this as an additional economic benefit for the farmers who can add a product there is a high demand for,” said Kidd. “You can easily make bio fuels; you can make hemp seed oils, you can make bedding for your livestock.”

And Kidd says there are also some practical uses for hemp.

“Even just a hot bed issue in Vermont, riparian buffer zones,” said Kidd. “So with the quick growing you can actually have a little buffer crop that doesn’t require a pesticide.”

If all goes well, it’s possible that UVM will be able to launch its hemp trials sometime this summer.

Seven Days Letter to the Editor: Milk Myths

By John Ahern
Full LTE

Thank you for publishing “Raw Deal? Farmers Push Back Against Unpasteurized Milk Regulations” [January 29]. The article underscores the ongoing lack of evidence informing the dialogue between well-meaning dairy farmers, consumers and the regulators. The pronouncements of Erica Berl provide good evidence of the ignorance regarding raw milk and its processed counterpart. Berl, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Vermont Health Department, claims “there’s no meaningful difference between nutritional values of raw and pasteurized milk.”

Evidence would suggest otherwise. It is well known that the temperatures needed to pasteurize milk destroy or greatly reduce Vitamins C, B12 and B6, manganese, copper, iron and the enzymes that make milk digestible. In addition, calcium is rendered insoluble by heat. If the dairy cows are grass fed, as many are here in Vermont, the unprocessed milk also offers high levels of conjugated linoleic acid and essential fatty acids, which are known to be nutritionally beneficial.

The regulators, and Berl, also need to catch up on their reading. In early 2013, three quantitative microbial risk assessments were published in the Journal of Food Protection and subsequently presented at a special scientific session, “Unpasteurized milk: myths and evidence” at the Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver. The evidence demonstrates that unpasteurized milk is a low-risk food.

John E. Ahern

Newport Dispatch: Got Raw Milk? It’s Around But Intentionally Hard to Get

By Bryan Marovich
Full Article

CRAFTSBURY — For hundreds of years raw milk has been a part of Vermont’s agricultural tradition. It’s recognized for its health, economic, and environmental benefits.

“My milk is produced for human consumption, not pasteurization,” Frank Huard, of Huard Family Farm in Craftsbury said.

The majority of milk produced in Vermont is shipped from large dairy farms to dairy co-ops and distributors for retail sale. But, there are still farmers who sell raw milk, which is unpasteurized, directly to customers.

A report from Rural Vermont which came out earlier in the week sheds new light on the raw milk debate. The report not only provides a snapshot of raw milk production and sales across the state, but it looks at what is working and what is not working with the current Raw Milk Law.

Because Vermont law doesn’t require those who sell raw milk to register with the state, it’s impossible to get an exact total of the amount produced or sold. However, the report shows that in a 12-month period, 2,000 customers bought more than 53,000 gallons of raw milk. This demonstrates that the production and sale of raw milk enables many Vermont farms to be more economically sustainable as they contribute to a growing community-based food system.

Frank Huard has been working hard to educate people as to the health benefits of raw goat milk. Frank is an expert in the field, and his farm was just awarded top quality goats’ milk at the Vermont Farm Show last Thursday. It’s the third time that they have been given the award.

The current law allows him to sell his product, but only if the customer comes to his farm to purchase it, or if he delivers it himself. Farmers are kept from selling raw milk at farmers markets, which the Rural Vermont report shows is something that needs to be addressed.

“What reason do we have to limit the access people have to certain products?” Huard asked.

One of the questions Rural Vermont asked in the study was if farmers stopped selling raw milk, what was the reason? One of the most common responses was “the farm is too far off the beaten path for customers to travel.”

It seems the current law is making it difficult for consumers to have easy access to raw milk, which in turn makes it harder for the farmers to reap some of the economic benefits that are available to them in the market. The demand is there but the supply is being cut off.

Times Argus: Vt. GMO bill gets showing of public support

February 08,2014
Full Article

MONTPELIER — The Senate Agriculture Committee voted Friday in support of labeling foods that contain genetically modified ingredients — without a requirement that other states act first before a Vermont law would take effect.

Friday’s 4-1 vote came after a Thursday evening public hearing at which there was unanimous support for GMO labeling, and strong opposition to tying a Vermont requirement to action by other states.

Next week, the bill is expected to move to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it’s uncertain what will happen there on the question of other states acting before a Vermont law takes effect.

More than 200 Vermonters gathered at the State House on Thursday to tell two Vermont Senate committees they want food containing genetically modified products to be labeled as such.

Americans were told decades ago that the now-banned pesticide DDT was safe, said Nova Kim, a collector and seller of wild mushrooms from Fairlee. “I spent the better part of my life dealing with health issues as a result,” she said.

She and others who testified said they “simply want to be able to choose” whether to eat genetically modified food. Many voiced strong suspicion about pesticides used on foods, and argued that genetically modified organisms are often designed to allow freer use of the chemicals.

One of the chemicals, the widely used herbicide Roundup, kills milkweed, a crucial food source for monarch butterflies, said Elizabeth Howard of Norwich.

The crowd’s sentiment was clear from the beginning. Signup sheets for speakers just before the hearing started showed more than 80 had put their names down as wanting to speak in favor of labeling.

The Vermont House passed a labeling bill last year. A draft pending in the Senate contains “options” for how the bill would become effective in the state. One would make a labeling law effective 18 months after two other states had passed similar legislation; another would require that four other states pass a labeling law.

Another provision would address fears that a state law would bring a court challenge from the biotech industry. It would set up a special defense fund to which labeling supporters could donate, with Vermont’s law taking effect when the fund accumulated $5 million.

Many speakers expressed little sympathy for the threat of lawsuits or the strategy of waiting for other states.

“I beg you to pass the labeling law without a trigger, regardless of what other states are going to do,” said Silvia Smith of South Strafford.

“Giving New Hampshire the power to decide if a Vermont law goes into effect is unacceptable,” said Stuart Blood of Thetford Center.

The biotech industry has argued there is no chemical difference between foods containing genetically modified ingredients and those that don’t. Thursday, a group of 28 food industry groups said they would support voluntary use by food companies of labels approved by the Food and Drug Administration indicating the food is genetically modified. Such a national system would pre-empt state laws.

The Hill: Food industry launches GMO push

February 06, 2014
By Ben Goad
Full Article

Major players in the American food industry formally launched an effort Thursday to head off regulations requiring labels on genetically engineered foods through the creation of a set of less restrictive federal standards.

The push for voluntary federal labeling standards, first reported by The Hill in November, follows expensive battles in California and Washington state over ballot initiatives seeking to impose mandatory labeling regulations.

The Coalition of Safe Affordable Foods, made up of roughly 30 trade groups from the food, biotechnology and farming industries, will press for legislation creating a voluntary labeling system for products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The group’s proposal would require labeling for any products deemed by the Food and Drug Administration to carry a public health threat — though, to date, none has — and impose a new mandatory pre-market technology review process at the agency.

At the same time, the measure would put an end to a growing number of mandatory bills that have cropped up in state legislatures around the country.

“The legislation we’re proposing would preclude state legislation that conflicts with the federal standards,” Pamela Bailey, president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said.

The group is leading the push for a voluntary system and began circulating an outline for potential legislation months ago.

Food safety and consumer watchdog groups that are demanding a mandatory federal system are backing competing legislation now pending in both chambers of Congress.

The watchdogs derided the industry effort as a blatant attempt to keep the American public in the dark.

“Voluntary labeling is an absolutely ineffective policy solution and is not a substitute for mandatory labeling,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. “Instead of working together to meet consumer demand, GMA is using its deep pockets to ensure that congress and consumers are misled about their food supply.”

The industry proposal calls for mandatory labels for any products derived from genetically engineered plants — but only if they are found to present any risks to health or safety, according to an early draft of the industry proposal.

To date, the FDA has made no such finding with regard to GMOs.

In the absence of any such designation, the legislation would direct the FDA to develop a new voluntary labeling system under which products could be labeled as “GMO-free.” The labeling system would also apply to any companies that wish to label products as containing GMOs, according to the draft.

Take Part: This Country Has America Beat When It Comes to Handling Raw Milk

Illegal in many states, unpasteurized dairy is sold out of vending machines in Slovenia.
February 06, 2014
By Rebecca McCray
Full Article

Marko Bitenc gets more text messages than the average dairy farmer. Throughout the day, an app on his phone texts him updates on the quality of the raw milk in a vending machine down the road from the farm that he and his family operate just outside Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Hoping to meet the cows whose unpasteurized milk I’ve been drinking for the last three months, I rode the bus to just a few stops shy of the end of the line one day in January. After hopping off at the outskirts of the country’s capital, it was a short walk past a small bakery and grocery store to the Bitenc farm.

Across the street from the barn that houses the cows, I met the Bitencs at their home. Over glasses of apricot juice at their kitchen table, Marko and his wife, Monika, discussed the challenges of running a family-owned dairy farm and their decision to get into the growing business of mlekomats, as the vending machines are called in Slovene. The Bitenc farm’s machine is one of many that have appeared throughout the country in the last five years, all of which are owned and operated by local farmers. The system removes the corporate middleman, pleasing both farmer and customer.

Thanks to the frequent texts Marko receives, the Bitencs knows immediately if the refrigerator stops working and the milk in their machine, which they change daily, rises above the temperature designated as safe by the Slovenian Administration for Food Safety. If this happens, the machine automatically stops vending, preventing the sale of unsafe milk.

In spite of these strict precautions implemented by Slovenia, this kind of fresh, local convenience product is unimaginable in the U.S., where in many states the retail sale of unpasteurized milk remains illegal.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made its serious stance on raw milk clear in recent years through a series of dramatic raids targeting and prosecuting small farms and businesses that bypass pasteurization. Of particular concern to the FDA is the sale of raw milk across state lines, which has been outlawed since 1987. But beyond the unilateral illegality of cross-state sales, the confusing patchwork of laws at the state level makes it clear that our country is far from having a unified stance on unpasteurized milk, leaving the door open for an underground community of raw milk enthusiasts to thrive.

Raw milk vending machines—also found throughout Italy, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, and other neighboring countries—provide unpasteurized, local milk 24 hours a day. It’s a retail experience I first encountered in Ljubljana’s outdoor central market, where customers can purchase a reusable glass or plastic bottle from another machine (or bring their own containers) to fill. The milk from this machine comes from Farm Mis, a larger dairy at the base of nearby Šmarna Gora, the highest peak in Ljubljana, known by hikers for its pristine view of the Julian Alps.

Back in the U.S., I regularly bought a half gallon of homogenized milk, some of which would go bad before I could finish it. Deterred by ridiculous New York prices, I would only splurge on organic pasteurized milk if I felt indulgent. In Slovenia, I now buy raw milk in 20-cent increments, so I seldom have any leftover. Unsurprisingly, the unskimmed milk from the mlekomat is utterly unrecognizable compared with the bluish, watery counterpart I bought in the U.S.—another reason I rarely waste a drop.

One Euro in the machine buys a full liter of this rich milk, which is dispensed from a self-cleaning spout that is sterilized with a UV light between purchases. Any milk left in the machine at the end of a 24-hour cycle is removed, the leftovers sold to local grocers who cook it to make other dairy products; nothing is wasted. Every possible protection is taken to protect consumers, from regimented cleaning processes to monthly and yearly inspections by government officials.

The milk is marginally more expensive than its pasteurized counterpart sold in grocery stores, but this hasn’t deterred customers. The Bitenc family notes that the greatest benefit of owning a mlekomat has not been making more money but expanding the customer base. “The point is that everybody who lives in this area should be able to get fresh milk 24 hours a day. We wanted to offer a local food to the people,” Monika Bitenc said.

So what has Slovenia figured out that we haven’t? Nothing. Pasteurized milk is widely available in every supermarket, and disclaimers on the mlekomats inform customers of the safety benefits of cooking the milk before they serve it.

According to Marko and Monika, the raw milk is most popular with young families and older Slovenians, who remember getting fresh milk as kids.

Peter Hafner, a 66-year-old resident of Ljubljana, explained, “I buy [milk from the mlekomat] because I know they don’t add anything to the milk…and nothing is taken from it either. In other words, the milk from the mlekomats is natural.”

Food Safety News: Vermont Report Finds Fewer Raw Milk Drinkers Than Previously Thought

By Dan Flynn

Consumer demand for raw milk may not be as large as many have thought, according to a first-of-its-kind state profile of raw milk sales.

The just-released “Rural Vermont’s 2013-2014 Raw Milk Report to the Legislature” says that state dairies selling unpasteurized milk had 1,940 “unique customers.” That amounts to fewer than 1 percent of Vermont’s 324,084 households. If correct, the market for unpasteurized milk directly from the farm is far smaller in the Green Mountain State than the 3 percent or more often claimed by raw milk advocates and even cited by some federal health officials.

Rural Vermont, which advocates for raw milk, says its report to the legislature “is intended to provide a snapshot of the current status of raw milk production and sales and identify what is working and what is not working with the current Raw Milk Law.”

The new producer survey could spur debate about whether the raw milk market in Vermont and elsewhere is this limited, and if so, is it limited by supply or demand?

The five-year old Act 62 limits the sale of raw milk products to the farm in Vermont. Retail stores cannot sell it. The report found that 1,767 Vermont residents are purchasing raw cow milk on the farm. The average number of customers for raw cow milk was 33 per farm, with the median being 14 customers.

There are just 173 customers in Vermont for raw goat milk, for an average of 10 per farm and a median of five.

With many raw milk sales limited to the farm and others occurring only in the underground market, precise sales figures are difficult to acquire. Estimates usually come from often-unreliable consumer phone surveys.

The Rural Vermont report is not based on a random survey but a two-year outreach program to obtain data from the state’s raw milk dairy producers. It collected the information at a statewide “Raw Milk Summit” held last October and at regional raw milk meetings.

The project obtained responses from 110 raw milk dairymen and women, including 80 who sold raw milk directly to consumers during the previous year. Together, 76 dairy farms reported selling a total of 53,306.75 gallons of raw milk during the year, for an average of 772 gallons per farm. The median sales amount was 240 gallons per farm.

The average is lifted by a few respondents who sold higher volumes of raw milk, up to 9,000 gallons per farm. Producers of raw cow milk sold more than producers of raw goat milk. The mean for raw cow milk was 432.5 gallons and, for raw goat milk, it was 34 gallons.

Vermont raw milk dairies sold raw cow milk for $4 to $10 per gallon, with the average price being $7 per gallon. Raw goat milk sold for $5 to $15 per gallon, with the average price coming in at $10.

Gross sales for the 76 raw milk dairies that provided data totaled $373,018. The Rural Vermont study stated that the average gross income from raw milk was $5,470. Median gross income was $1,500, with a wide variation that ranged from $10-90,000 per year.

Per-farm sales for raw cow milk dairies averaged $6,718, with a median of $2,250. For raw goat milk dairies, the average was $1,066 and the median $503. The 54 farms that responded said from 0.01 to 100 percent of their sales were dependent upon raw dairy products.

Average sales from raw dairy totaled 20.9 percent, with the median coming in at 5 percent.

Rural Vermont reported that these 76 dairies had a total herd of 1,067 cows and goats. A total of 982 cows were being milked at the raw milk dairies, with an average of 17 cows per farm. The median was 3.5 cows.

Goat dairies reported a total herd of 87 animals, with both the average and the median being four goats.

Raw milk dairies are somewhat split about their approach to carrying liability insurance. Rural Vermont found that 44.7 percent of the dairies were insured, but a majority, 55.3 percent, was not. The report notes that only one carrier in Vermont is currently issuing insurance policies to raw milk farmers.

Also, 72.4 percent did not ship any milk product to bulk buyers. The other 28.6 percent did supply other producers and bulk buyers such as cooperatives.

The Vermont House Agriculture Committee is reviewing Senate Bill 70, which passed the upper chamber last year and could become the vehicle for loosening the state’s raw milk regulations.

Raw milk producers in the state told Rural Vermont they want lawmakers to lift the lid on the two-tier production limits currently imposed by Act 62. They’d also like changes to existing testing and inspection protocols.

WCAX: Vt. lawmakers, public, weigh in on GMO bill

Feb 07, 2014
By Ali Freeman
Full Article and Video

MONTPELIER, Vt. -Would you know if you were eating genetically modified food? Many Vermonters say they want laws passed to require companies to disclose when they use technology to alter their products. Potatoes, potato chips, milk, fruits, veggies and more GMO’s can be found everywhere. A proposed bill would require companies to clearly mark foods that have been genetically modified. But Vermont’s Attorney General says this could get the state into a sticky lawsuit.

“Don’t GMO me bro,” said Al Walskey of Bershire as the crowd laughed.

Although laughter filled the packed House Chamber at the State House Thursday night, it was a serious night of testimony. The topic: Genetically Modified food.

“I am concerned and want to know what’s in my food. And I would imagine that most legislators are also concerned and they would want to know what is in their food,” said Alton Smith of Wolcott.

Dozens gave testimony in front of two Senate committees, regarding a bill that would require foods with GMO’s to label accordingly.

Most of the corn and soy crops grown in the U.S. come from GMO seeds — which are engineered to resist insects and herbicides. The FDA says they are indistinguishable from non-GMO foods, so they don’t have to be labeled. And labeling opponents say doing so, would wrongly imply the foods are unsafe.

The Vermont House passed a bill last year requiring GMO labeling by July 2015, and now it’s up to the senate. Hundreds turned up for the public testimony, many voicing concerns about health risks from genetically modified foods.

“Ladies and gentleman, in light of serious unsettled questions about the safety of GM foods and associated herbicide use — I submit that the Vermont market must have information at the retail level as soon as possible to work correctly,” said Timothy O’Dell of Corinth.

Many also testified against the proposed trigger clauses. These proposed clauses could mean this law would only go into effect after other states have done the same.

“I beg you to pass the labeling law without a trigger — regardless of what other states are going to do,” said Sylvia Smith of South Strafford.

Everyone who testified Thursday was in favor of requiring GMO labeling. But even if passed, this bill may hit a major snag.

“I think it’s very likely that we would be sued, very likely,” said Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

Sorrell says requiring companies to label their product is a violation of Freedom of Speech and Vermont would be sued by some big players.

Sorrell is scheduled to testify before the legislature Friday, warning lawmakers about the costly risk of litigation. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to vote on the bill Friday, which would then send it to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Common Dreams: The Trigger Trap: Will Vermont Lawmakers Let Industry Strangle Another GMO Labeling Law?

February 5, 2014
by Will Allen and Kate Duesterberg
Full Op-Ed

From spending millions to defeat ballot initiatives, to floating a voluntary federal labeling “solution,” to threatening to sue any state, including Vermont, if it passes a GMO labeling law, the biotech and junk food industries are determined to keep labels off of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

One of their strategies designed to thwart state GMO labeling laws involves convincing normally progressive state lawmakers to add a “trigger” clause to their state bills. A trigger adds an additional condition to a bill, a condition that must be met before the law can be enacted. The trigger clause appeals to state lawmakers who want to shield their states from the financial burden of millions of dollars in legal costs, should industry follow through on threats to sue.

The trigger strategy has been employed successfully so far in Maine and Connecticut. Will Vermont be the next to fall into the trigger trap? Or will Vermont senators and the Governor stand up for their constituents by standing up to industry?

In 2013, Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling bills. Both those laws are in limbo, where they will remain until four neighboring states with a combined population of 20 million inhabitants pass similar labeling bills. Connecticut and Maine lawmakers justified the triggers as a strategy to spread out the legal liability in the event of industry lawsuits.

But industry activists, who thought they’d won the labeling battle only to realize they’d gained only a pyrrhic victory, are frustrated. In Vermont, where more than 90 percent of the citizens are in favor of a mandatory GMO labeling law, activists hope their lawmakers will take the lead, by passing the first clean, trigger-less GMO labeling law.

Vermont’s H.112 Can Withstand Legal Challenge

Legal scholars and the Vermont Attorney General’s office have determined that H.112 is well-researched, well-written and fully defensible in court.

Of course, industry has told every lie in the book, and pulled every trick out of its hat, to convince state lawmakers otherwise. Just as they lied to voters in California and Washington State, where GMO labeling initiatives were narrowly defeated, representatives from the Biotechnology Industry Organization testified in Vermont that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had performed health and safety tests on GMO crops, and found them to be safe.

That testimony was refuted by Michael Hansen, senior scientist at the Consumers Union, who stated that the FDA has never performed health or safety testing on any GMO crop. In fact, the only tests performed on GMO crops, for human food and animal feed, were those done by biotech companies or researchers working under contract for those companies. Neither the U.S. government nor independent researchers have been permitted to conduct the long-term multi-generational feeding studies that are usually required before a new product is released. Why? Because GMO seed manufacturers won’t release their proprietary seeds for testing.

In fact, the only thing most U.S. consumers know about the safety or danger of these products is what the genetic manipulators tell us.

But consumers are wising up, thanks to the work of brave researchers in Europe and Asia who have risked their careers to conduct short and long-term studies of GMO food and animal feed. The results of these independent tests, and the widespread use of the precautionary principle, prompted 64 countries—but not the U.S.—to label GMO products to protect their citizens.

Time to Apply the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to GMOs

The precautionary principle holds that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships have not yet been fully established scientifically.

When it comes to our food, shouldn’t we take every precaution to avoid releasing products that haven’t been adequately tested for health and safety, into the marketplace?

And yet, we don’t. In the case of GMOs, the precautionary principle comes into play because preliminary results from independent researchers in the European Union and Asia found kidney and liver tumors, and intestinal abnormalities. In spite of these findings, the corporations making the products have consistently refused to let government and independent U.S. researchers conduct trials of their products.

In the U.S., the precautionary principle is rejected by corporations and government regulators who employ much more corporate-friendly “standards.” Those “standards,” known as quantitative risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses, are more like sliding scales than standards. This system determines that certain chemically produced substances make some people sick and kill other victims. This risk of illness and death is contrasted with the benefits to farmers and the food supply. In this risk-benefit system, the death of a certain number of people is evaluated as an acceptable risk in order to get the benefit of more food or animal feed by using toxic pesticides, fertilizers or GMOs.

If a pesticide causes cancer in laboratory animals, the EPA makes the calculation and the tolerance is set so that the estimated exposure will be less than the amount calculated to cause one extra cancer case per million people. This is the level that EPA calls a “negligible risk.” The EPA is not interpreting this standard strictly; however, estimated cancer risks that are almost double that level are frequently acceptable. Economic benefits have been used to justify cancer risks that are up to 10 times higher. Instead of standards, critics accuse the U.S. of employing “risk roulette.”

Consumers Want Real Laws, not ‘Triggers’

Opinion polls have shown repeatedly that consumers want GMOs labeled.  As the struggle over labeling is waged, in one form or another, in at least 26 states, the trigger becomes one of the biotech and food industry’s most effective tools.

But consumers know what the trigger strategy really is—just another way to put off the day when we have the right to know what is in our food. It is intended to protect state funds. But it’s really just another way for state legislators to avoid direct confrontation with corporate bullies.

Isn’t it time lawmakers stand up for their constituents, and stand up to industry? Let Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers sue. Let’s all encourage Vermont to take the lead, and pass a clean, trigger-less law. If you live outside Vermont, please visit http://www.vtrighttoknowgmos.org/ to see how you can help. If you’re a Vermonter, please contact your state lawmaker today and ask him or her to support H.112.

Seven Days Off Message: Rural Vermont: Farmers Sold 53,000 Gallons of Raw Milk

by Kathryn FlaggFebruary 05, 2014
Full Article

As some farmers push for more freedom to sell raw milk, an  advocacy group reports that nearly 2,000 customers bought more than 53,000 gallons of the unpasteurized product in a recent 12-month period.

For those of you interested in following the raw milk debate, head over to the website of Rural Vermont, which  released its annual raw milk report Wednesday morning. Because Vermont doesn’t require farmers selling raw milk to register with the state, the Rural Vermont report is the best snapshot we have of what raw milk sales look like on the ground.

To recap, raw milk is unpasteurized. In Vermont, it’s sold directly by farmers to consumers, and in almost all cases consumers have to travel to the farm to purchase this milk. Vermont passed regulations in 2009 covering the sale of raw milk, setting out guidelines for farmers intended to protect public health. People who love raw milk really love raw milk — but conversely, public health officials stand firm in their conviction that consuming unpasteurized milk (which hasn’t been treated to kill off pathogens and bacteria) could make people sick.

The Rural Vermont report includes the results of a survey and information gathered from farmers at a raw milk summit held in Bethel in October. Rural Vermont received survey responses from 110 farmers, 80 of whom identified themselves as current sellers of raw milk. (The additional 30 were past producers, aspiring raw milk sellers, or farmers interested in the topic.)

Some interesting tidbits:

* Seventy-six farms reported the quantity of raw cow and goat milk they sold between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013 — which cumulatively totaled 53,307 gallons. The largest producer sold as much as 9,000 gallons, and the median amount was 240 gallons per farm.

The overall milk sales to nearly 2,000 customers brought in just more than $373,000. The largest per-farm income from raw milk sales reported was $90,000. Farmers selling raw cows’ milk reported an average income of $6,718 from the sales.

Rural Vermont also presents a number of suggested changes to the current raw milk law, which they say were “consistently raised” by farmers at raw milk gatherings held around the state. These include, among other suggestions:

  • Develop more reasonable and affordable animal health testing protocols;
  • Limit regulations for “neighborly scale” sales, which would allow producers to sell very small quantities of milk under less stringent rules;
  • Allow for the sale of “light processed” raw dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, soft cheeses and ice cream;
  • Remove production limits (which currently cap daily sales for most farmers at 12.5 gallons per day) to allow more sales.