MONTPELIER, Vt. -A Vermont great dairy debate– raw milk versus pasteurized milk.
“People really desire a raw product, something that hasn’t been altered by pasteurization or been altered in the name of profit more often than not,” said Nathan Rogers, who owns Rogers Farmstead.
The sale of raw milk in our region is allowed, but there are restrictions aimed at protecting the public from getting sick. Tier 2 dairy farmers can sell up to 40 gallons a day of raw milk from their farms, but now they say it’s about taking it to market.”
“If you’re gonna do this and do this safely, you have to have the ability to move the product,” Rogers said. “And if it’s sitting around, that doesn’t help. It’s all about being able to create an economic business model that will work for the farmer.”
The House Agriculture Committee heard testimony Tuesday on bill S.70. If passed, the bill would allow tier 2 or larger dairy producers to deliver to farmers markets.
Critics say if the bill passes, consumers may not know the risks of what they are buying. But raw milk producers say their product is completely safe and thoroughly tested, and drinking and buying raw milk is a choice.
“It’s all about what you as an individual feel is safe, what you as an individual choose to do with your own body and your family,” Rogers said. “And that’s really for us what it comes down to, the fundamental right to make the decision yourself.”
Raw milk producers say they represent a small fraction of dairy farmers in Vermont and they serve a niche market, but they want to be able to sustain a viable business through the expansion of their method of sale.
Got raw milk?
By TARINI PARTI | 3/29/14 3:12 PM EDT Full Article
Although not a campaign slogan just yet, a bipartisan coalition of House members is pushing for the overturn of a decades-old ban on the interstate sale of raw milk. A controversial topic within the food industry, it has slowly evolved into a pet cause that’s bringing together some of the most anti-government libertarians and left-leaning liberals.
Loosening regulations on raw – or unpasteurized — milk, which the Food and Drug Administration believes poses too many health risks, has been gaining steam on the state level in recent times, with at least half of states now allowing the sale of raw milk directly to consumers and several more seeing raw milk-related bills being introduced in the previous two sessions.
Now, with the introduction of two new bills in Congress by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), proponents of legalizing raw milk are making strides on the national front, too. Massie’s first bill, the “Milk Freedom Act of 2014,” would overturn the interstate ban on raw milk, and his other bill, the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014,” would allow interstate shipment of raw milk only between two states where raw milk sales are already legal.
The swing in momentum can, in part, be attributed to a transformation of the argument that advocates are using. The debate used to be centered on the health and nutritional benefits of raw milk versus the safety of pasteurized milk, but the likes of Ron Paul — who mentioned the issue in several speeches during his 2012 presidential run and introduced similar bills when he was in Congress — have turned it into one about freedom of choice.
“It’s nice to see that people are now advocating for their right rather than science,” said Baylen Linnekin, executive director of Keep Food Legal, a group that describes itself as “the first nationwide membership organization devoted to food freedom—the right of every American to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing.”
In a statement on his two bills, Massie, too, highlighted the right to choose argument. “Today, many people are paying more attention to the food they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed. Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers,” he said. “Personal choices as basic as ‘what we feed our families’ should not be limited by the federal government.”
Massie’s bills already have nearly 20 co-sponsors, including Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).
It’s a strange alliance.
Pingree, in particular, doesn’t typically share the same views on food-related policy as Massie or other Republicans, having fought recently against food stamp cuts and the use of pesticides that are endangering the Monarch butterfly population. But, in 2011, she wrote FDA to express her concern over the agency’s diverting of precious resources to “prevent consumers from choosing the type of milk that they drink.”
“When Ron Paul introduced his bill, he had trouble even getting one sponsor,” said David Gumpert, author of The Raw Milk Revolution, a 2006 book that paints an unflattering view of the government crackdown on raw milk producers. “This is quite an about-face. It speaks to the huge political change that as many representatives would go on record in support of raw milk just a few years after Ron Paul did this. It’s pretty impressive.”
The two new bills follow Sen. Rand Paul’s proposed amendment to the farm bill that would have allowed the direct sale of raw milk across state lines. The Kentucky Republican also made the food freedom argument, but he was unsuccessful in gathering support for his amendment.
In the past, raw milk advocates have argued that the product is actually healthier than pasteurized milk, but the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have countered that claim by pointing to data that shows the number of foodborne illnesses that can be attributed to raw milk.
Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the major national group advocating for raw milk, argues that the statistics paint a misleading picture. He says there are several other products that aren’t banned that contribute to diseases, such as cigarettes, alcohol and even pasteurized milk in some cases.
“The trouble is that raw milk is the only food that is held to a standard of perfection,” he said.
Kennedy’s group, the advocacy arm of The Weston A. Price Foundation, more than doubled its fundraising — a measure of the growing interest in raw milk — between 2009 and 2011, according to the group’s tax filings. It raised about $240,000 in 2009 and nearly $530,000 in 2011.
Another factor now driving the movement is consumers’ growing disdain for Big Ag, said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney and food safety advocate who has represented several clients made sick by raw milk.
“There has certainly been a more vocal movement to consume raw milk as people have turned away from mass produced agriculture,” he said.
“The reasons why (clients) were consuming raw milk was because they believed it was healthier, and they were supporting small farmers and poking a stick in the eye of Big Ag.”
Despite the growing grassroots movement in favor of loosening raw milk regulation and bipartisan support, getting a bill through Congress will continue to be an uphill battle, especially with strong opposition from the dairy industry. The National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association — usually on opposite sides of dairy policy — have repeatedly compared consuming raw milk to “playing Russian roulette.”
Chris Galen, spokesman for NMPF, said his group will be educating members of Congress on the risks associated with raw milk to deter Massie’s bills from gaining traction. NMPF joined with state dairy associations in Wisconsin earlier this year to keep a raw milk bill from advancing in the state legislature and push Gov. Scott Walker to veto the legislation.
Kimberly Hartke, a spokeswoman for The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Campaign for Real Milk, acknowledges that any changes on raw milk regulation on the federal level might be tough to achieve, but she remains confident her side will prevail.
“It’s basically just the grassroots’ hard work, energy and enthusiasm that’s making the difference,” Hartke said. “And ultimately that will win the day.”
I am writing in respectful rebuttal to Dr. M. Kathleen Shaw’s and the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association’s position on raw milk. I believe a more complete picture of this issue is in order. What is critically missing from the VVMA’s opinion is a balanced assessment of: the reasons why consumers choose raw milk and the short term and long term health risks of milk consumption, as well as a relative risk assessment of the consumption of raw milk versus the consumption of other animal products.
The VVMA focused only on the consumer perception that raw milk has health benefits. It is true that scientific studies have demonstrated that raw milk is protective against the development of asthma and allergic diseases.1, 2 In addition, raw milk from properly raised animals is also full of beneficial bacteria. Literature in the field of human nutrition is increasingly recognizing the value of eating foods with such beneficial probiotic species.
But there is also a negative reason why people are deciding not to consume conventional pasteurized milk, and this has to do with long term health effects. While it is relatively straightforward to measure rates of acute food-borne illness which occur shortly after consumption of a particular food, it is not such a simple matter to measure the long term harms of slowly acting substances. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that “You are what you eat”. In the case of conventional milk from conventionally raised animals, it is also the case that “You are what you eat eats”, and “You are what has been sprayed on what you eat eats”, and “You are what has been injected into what you eat”.
The point is that the short-term safety of any animal product depends upon how it is handled and processed. But the safety of any animal product with regards to long term effects on human health depends upon practices of animal husbandry, an issue truly worthy of championing by an organization such as the VVMA. Consumers of raw milk are choosing it in large part because of informed decisions based upon the superior animal husbandry practices of the farmers who produce raw milk for human consumption.
Finally, if the VVMA or any organization is concerned about the risks of acute food-borne illness due to the consumption of animal products, it must adequately explain why raw milk has been singled out. Based on quantitative microbial risk assessment, on a per-serving basis, the risk of food borne illness from chicken is 57 to 1,181 times more likely to cause food-borne illness than unpasteurized milk.3 The consumption of hamburger is 7 to 34 times more likely to cause food-borne illness than unpasteurized milk.4
With the precarious status of the safety of our food supply in mind, (even spinach is 6 to 28 times more likely than raw milk to cause food-borne illness5,6,7), consumers must make difficult choices regarding the short term and long term health consequences of their dietary choices. Informed professionals such as veterinarians and physicians have an obligation to represent a balanced viewpoint to assist the consumer in this endeavor.
Robert Luby, MD
43 Brookes Avenue
Burlington, VT 05401 802-881-1796
1. O. S. von Ehrenstein, E. et al., Clin. Exp. Allergy 30, 187 (2000).
2. A. H. Wijga, et al., Thorax 58, 567 (2003).3. Uyttendaele, et al., Int J Food Microbiol, 2006, 11(1); 149-163.
4. Cassin, M. et al., Int J Food Microbiol 1998, 4(1); 21-44.
5. Tromp, S.O. et al., J Food Prot 2010, 73(10); 1830-1840.
6. Franz, E. et al., 2010, 73(2); 274-285. 7. Giacommetti, F. et al., 2012, J Food Prot, 75(7); 2363-2369.
Robert Luby, MD, ABHM
Doctor Robert Luby grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and completed his undergraduate education at Dartmouth College in 1985. Columbia University was the site of his MD degree in 1989. Postgraduate training in a family medicine residency program in Seattle, Washington was completed in 1992. Dr. Luby has been board certified in family medicine since 1992, and became board certified in holistic medicine in 2002. He is among the first cohort of physicians to qualify to be certification-eligible in Functional Medicine. His medical training has included time spent on Native American reservations and in war-torn Guatemala.
For 24 years Dr. Luby has practiced the full scope of family medicine in Latino community health centers in Massachusetts and Washington. Additionally, he has practiced in integrative health centers in Vermont and Massachusetts for over a decade.
Dr. Luby also maintains an active presence in the academic medical community. He is the Director of Outpatient Medicine, the Integrative Medicine area of concentration, and the Associate Director of the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the Lawrence, Ma. Family Medicine Residency. He holds faculty teaching appointments at Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Vermont schools of medicine.
As the U.S. government continues to issue warnings regarding raw dairy products, several European countries have done just the opposite by expanding access through unpasteurized milk vending machines, according to Wake Up World.
Compared with pasteurized and homogenized dairy, the news source argues that raw milk offers a wealth of nutrition—all without the drawbacks of oxidized fats, denatured proteins, antibiotics or growth hormones typically found in pasteurized and processed milk products.
Given the purported benefits of raw milk, multiple European nations have installed self-service vending machines that provide 24-hour access. Michel Cantaloube, who helped introduce the machines in France, the UK and Spain, hopes to expand the venture into a similar vending machine for raw yogurt.
Other countries like Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands have begun to install their own raw milk vending machines as well.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tells a different story.
The FDA has listed raw milk’s potential mild to severe effects and issued the following warning:
Vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain
Flulike symptoms, such as fever, headache and body ache
In response, Wake Up World questioned the FDA’s stance and pointed to a recent study that indicated children who drank raw milk were 40 percent less likely to come down with asthma or allergies.
A Campaign for Real Milk, an advocacy group associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, agrees, stating raw milk:
Protects against infections, diarrhea, rickets, scurvy, tooth decay and tuberculosis
Demonstrates better child growth profiles with longer and denser bones
Improves vitamin A, B6 and D absorption
Enhances mineral assimilation through the presence of lactobacilli
Individuals diagnosed with lactose intolerance are often able to consume raw milk products without issue
Moreover, hundreds of testimonials support the value of raw milk in helping childhood behavioral problems, digestive disorders, failure to thrive in infants, arthritis, osteoporosis and cancer.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Drinking raw milk straight from local dairy farmers is gaining popularity in Vermont. But farmers face tight limits on the product.
At the Green Mountain Girls Farm Stand in Northfield, you can find all sorts of straight-off-the-farm goods, including raw goat milk.
“We can only sell our milk from the farm,” said Laura Olson, one of the owners. “We can’t even bring it to a customer if we’re on the way past their house. We can’t do anything, we can’t take it to the farmers’ market,” she said. Her business frequents the Northfield Farmers’ Market, and occasionally the market in Montpelier.
The Green Mountain Girls also aren’t allowed to sell other dairy products like cheese from their raw milk, so they hold classes to teach their customers how to make it themselves.
“There’s a huge demand for it,” Olson said. “People ask us–‘can we have cheese? Can we get yogurt?’ And we have to say ‘no, sorry you can’t’.”
Act 62, the law regulating raw milk, was enacted in 2009. It sets the restrictions above, plus several more including how many quarts of raw milk farmers can sell per day. Farms are separated in Tier 1 and Tier 2; Tier 2 farms have looser regulations. In order to become Tier 2 however, farmers have to hand-deliver their milk twice a month to a state lab in Waterbury for testing, among other costs. Olson says the cost to become Tier 2 would eliminate all profits from her small business. There are only two Tier 2 farms in the entire state.
Rural Vermont is hoping to loosen the restrictions from Act 62. The organization gave its 5th annual report to the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products Tuesday.
“There’s a story that’s gotten embedded in people’s minds that raw milk is dangerous,” said Andrea Stander, Executive Director for Rural Vermont. She says raw milk is healthy, and not pasteurizing the milk retains the nutrients and good bacteria. She says there are also people with dairy allergies or who are lactose intolerant who can digest raw milk. The Vermont Department of Health calls these myths, saying “Raw or unpasteurized milk is an inherently risky food.”
The House Agriculture Committee is currently discussing a raw milk bill, S.70, which passed the Senate last session. The bill would slightly loosen restrictions on farmers, but Rural Vermont asked the committee for more. Here are their requested amendments:
– More reasonable and affordable animal testing (farmers have to pay vets to test their animals for diseases)
– A third “neighborly scale” tier that would let farmers sell small amounts of raw milk to their own community
– Allow raw dairy products like cream, butter, yogurt, kefir, cheese and ice cream
– Create an average daily/weekly allowance rather than the current daily allowance, because farmers tend to have more customers on particular days of the week
– Develop rules and regulations that make it more feasible for farmers to be Tier 2
– Expand sales to farmers markets and other central drop-off locations