Rural Vermont’s Farm Fresh (Raw) Milk Campaign
2015 Legislative Session
- Campaign beginnings (2005-2008)
- Act 62 (2009)
- Legalizing Raw Dairy Processing Classes (2011)
- Raw Milk Delivery Bill (2014)
- Protest of the Agency of Agriculture Milk Testing Protocol (2014)
H.484, the “Agricultural Housekeeping Bill” (2015)
About halfway through the 2015 legislative session, after hearing substantial testimony from raw milk farmers and consumers, the House Agricultural Committee passed the “Ag Housekeeping” bill, H.484, containing substantial provisions that would improve the raw milk law. The bill then went to the Senate Agricultural Committee, where under pressure from one member (Sen. McAllister of Franklin Cty) changes were made to the House Ag Committee’s proposed amendments. These changes would have actually taken us backwards and made the raw milk law more onerous for both farmers and their customers.
In the final two weeks of the session lack of time was working against us and it was crucial to get the Senate to compromise and adopt more of the House’s proposed amendments. In response to advocacy from their constituents, Senators Campbell, Starr, Zuckerman and Sirotkin worked with Reps. Partridge, Zagar and Bartholomew from the House Ag Cmte to offer a compromise amendment on the Senate floor. Senator Pollina, a founder of Rural Vermont, was standing by and prepared to offer the amendment as a long-time advocate for family farmers.
Just two days before the end of the session, Sen. Zuckerman, with the backing of his Sen. Ag. Cmte colleagues, presented the compromise amendment and it passed the Senate with no opposition. Following an afternoon and evening of behind the scenes negotiating, Reps. Bartholomew and Eastman presented the amended bill and it too passed with no opposition on the House floor. This was a first in the history of Rural Vermont’s advocacy on raw milk and is further indication that we have finally turned the page and won widespread acceptance of this important addition to Vermont’s agricultural economy.
Below are the changes to the raw milk law that will go into effect as soon as the governor signs the bill. Read the complete statute here.
- TB/Brucellosis testing: Every ruminant animal must be tested once before beginning sales of raw milk. After that any new animals coming onto the farm must be tested, and any animal born on the farm must be tested before it is added to the milking herd. This is a HUGE improvement because the existing law required testing all animals every year, a significant financial burden to farmers. NOTE: Vermont has been a certified TB & Brucellosis free state for over 20 years.
- The requirement that customers visit the farm before being able to buy or receive delivery of milk was removed as a requirement for Tier II producers.
- The sales limit was raised to 350 gallons/wk. for Tier II producers.
- All producers may now use lab approved 2 oz. vials for submitting milk testing samples instead of the previous requirement that they use the jars in which the milk was sold (usually ½ gal. glass jars). This will give raw milk producers access to more accredited labs and less expensive options for delivering their samples to the lab.
- The milk quality testing standards did not change but the enforcement consequences for a high test result were restored to the policy that had been used successfully for five years.
- The only disappointing change, for Tier II producers, is that the large warning sign which is already required on the farm now also must be displayed at farmers’ markets or anywhere milk is being delivered – this is because the farm visit is no longer required.
Read our “cheat sheet” for a breakdown of the Tier 1 and Tier requirements. Note that all new changes are underlined.
Thank you to everyone who reached out to their legislators in support the H.484. This is your victory!
H.426, the “New Raw Milk Bill” (2015):
Through the hard work of many raw milk producers, a new comprehensive raw milk bill was introduced to the Legislature in 2015. Rep. Teo Zagar of Barnard was the lead sponsor of the bill, and forty nine legislators signed on as tri-partisan co-sponsors. The bill, H.426, would expand economic opportunity and create fairness for raw milk producers of all scales as well as expand choice and access for raw milk customers. Read H.426 as introduced.
Since the passage of Act 62 in 2009, Rural Vermont has been working with raw milk producers of all scales from all over the state to learn what aspects of the law are and are not working for farmers and identify priority areas of improvement. H.426 is the result of much of this organizing work.
After weeks of testimony which highlighted the need for improvements to be made to the law this year, the House Agriculture Committee proposed a set of amendments to the Senate Agriculture Committee for inclusion in the annual “Ag Housekeeping Bill” (H.484) and urged their Senate colleagues to support them.
H.426, the comprehensive raw milk bill, remains active and intact. Rural Vermont has verbal commitment from the House Ag Committee to revisit H.426 next year in pursuit of additional improvements to the raw milk law. Please note that some of the below proposed changes have already been passed as part of H.484, the Agricultural Housekeeping Bill.
This is a summary of the changes H.426 would make to the current raw milk law:
NOTE: All provisions of the current raw milk law will remain in place except as amended by the following changes and additions:
– Weekly sales volumes will be increased: Tier I = 100 gallons or less; Tier II more than 100 gallons with no upper limit
– A “Neighborly Tier” will be added allowing sale of up to 70 gallons per week with minimal requirements (sanitary conditions required)
– Sales at farmers’ markets, CSAs, and retail* stores will be permitted (Tier II only) *For retail sales, only fluid milk is allowed and there are additional requirements.
– In addition to farmers’ markets, delivery will be permitted to CSAs and predetermined drop-off locations (Tier II only)
– Animal health testing (TB & Brucellosis) will be required every three years instead of annually (all Tiers)
– Allows sale of value-added dairy products: cheese aged 60 days or more, cream, skim milk, butter, kefir, and yogurt (all Tiers)
– Changes the required labeling and signage language to: “Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk. Not pasteurized. Keep refrigerated. Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to health. If handled improperly, raw milk may be harmful to health. Raw milk must be kept at 40 degrees or less at all times.” (Tiers I & II)
– Changes milk testing to once per month and allows samples to be delivered to an FDA accredited lab in standard sampling containers (Tier II)
– Changes monthly testing standard for somatic cell count to 400,000/ml for cows and 750,000/ml for goats (Tier II)
If you have questions, want to get involved, or just want more information about raw milk, please contact shelby[at]ruralvermont.org.
Farm Fresh Milk Campaign History
Rural Vermont has been working with a statewide network of farmers and customers to make it easier to buy and sell raw milk in Vermont since 2005. In 2007, Rural Vermont conducted surveys of dozens of raw milk farmers all over the state, and used that information to draft the Farm Fresh Milk Restoration Act of 2008, which called for farmers to be able to sell unlimited amounts of raw milk from their farms, deliver pre-purchased milk, and advertise. Rural Vermont was successful in doubling the daily limit of raw milk that could be sold off of the farm (from 25 to 50 quarts), and in the process of considering the bill, it was found that the advertising of raw milk was technically legal, and since then farmers have been allowed to advertise.
In 2009, Rural Vermont helped to pass H.125, a bill that creates a tiered system for raw milk dairies, requiring basic standards to be met by all farmers, and greater standards be met by those selling larger quantities and/or delivering their milk.
The Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk bill was passed and enacted into law on July 1, 2009. This progressive legislation legitimizes raw milk, acknowledges that the locally-based food system requires different rules than those established for industrial food, and recognizes that raw milk sales are an incredible economic opportunity for farmers and that there is a growing and significant demand among consumers. It creates a tiered regulatory system that is defined by the quantity of milk being sold. It establishes a set of reasonable and basic standards that ALL raw milk producers must follow, thereby ensuring a clean and safe raw milk supply. A few examples: animals must be healthy, milking equipment must be cleaned and sanitized, milk must be cooled quickly, and farmers must maintain a daily transaction record. Those operating as Tier 2 producers must follow some additional requirements, including registration with and inspection by the VT Agency of Agriculture and regular milk testing. Regardless of the total quantity of milk being sold, any farmer can operate as a Tier 2 producer as long as s/he is following the Tier 2 requirements – this may be of interest to farmers who want to deliver smaller quantities of milk.
Legalizing Raw Dairy Processing Classes
S.105, signed into law in May, 2011, addresses the issues raised in the Notice of Warning letter that led to the suspension of Rural Vermont’s raw milk dairy classes by changing the definition of raw milk so that it may now be sold for “personal consumption,” rather than limiting its sale for “fluid consumption.” This simple change means that (1) farmers are no longer prohibited from selling raw milk to a customer because that customer plans to make the milk into dairy products such as cheese or butter for their own consumption; and (2) that educational dairy classes may be held in order to teach Vermonters how to make raw milk dairy products for their own consumption.
While Rural Vermont believes the current rules around classes are not perfect, we do think that it is an important step in the right direction in the sense that it legitimizes the rights of individuals to teach people how to make dairy products for their own consumption and represents an important step toward growing Vermont’s vibrant local agricultural system.
Misc Agriculture Bill or the Dairy Housekeeping Bill, S. 105: Contains new language that allows the raw dairy classes to be up and running again, as well as a number of other legislative fixes to do with agriculture. Compost language has been tied on to the end of the bill, attempting to limit the rights’ of municipal zoning regulators. This bill, although lengthy is comprehensive, clear and progressing in the right direction.
Read an article about the bill here.
Raw Milk Delivery Bill Signed into Law!
Act 149, the Raw Milk Delivery to Farmers’ Markets bill, was signed into law by Governor Shumlin in late May, and will go into effect on July 1, 2014. Act 149 provides the following improvements in access to raw milk:
- After July 1, 2014, Tier Two raw milk producers will be able to deliver raw milk to existing customers* at farmers’ markets where they are a vendor.
- Act 149 changes the daily sales limit to an aggregate weekly limit for both Tier One and Tier Two producers with some requirements regarding storage capacity and protection of shelf life.
- Act 149 also clarifies that raw milk producers need only provide the “opportunity” for customers to take a tour of their farm.
* Existing customer means someone who has previously made a visit to the farm to make their initial purchase of raw milk.
For a more thorough overview on the changes made to the current law. You can read Act 149, as signed into law, here.
Although Act 149 makes only modest improvements in providing greater access to raw milk, the process of taking testimony and debating the bill has significantly raised the profile of the issue and the level of respect for the farmers who produce this highly valued product. Many of the House Ag Committee members have expressed interest in pursuing further improvements next year.
We are especially excited that Representatives John Bartholomew and Teo Zagar, along with House Ag Cmte Chairwoman Carolyn Partridge, thoroughly defended raw milk by clearly reiterating that raw milk is not inherently dangerous and that other foods can be even riskier. If you live in their districts please thank them for their support.
“Most examples of tainted foods come from Agri-business.” – House Ag Cmte Chairwoman Carolyn Partridge of Windham
“I trust Vermont farmers to produce a high-quality product.” – Representative Teo Zagar of Barnard
“My own impression… the risk is exaggerated.. there are other things much more dangerous.” – Representative John Bartholomew of Hartland
Protest of the VAAFM Raw Milk Testing Protocol
Since mid-summer of 2014, Rural Vermont has been working with our Raw Milk Leadership team and the network of Tier II producers to first protest and then attempt to get the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ (VAAFM) to withdraw its change in policy regarding the required bi-monthly milk tests that Tier II producers must submit.
If you would like to endorse our letter of protest or if you want to learn more about this issue, please visit this page.
You can read both of the VAAFM’s letters of response to Rural Vermont’s protest as well as the new policy.
Although the new policy most immediately impacts Tier II raw milk producers, Rural Vermont is very concerned that it represents a much broader problem: state agency policies which are, for the most part, created internally, with no opportunity for public scrutiny let alone input, having the potential to significantly undermine and even contradict our laws – which were created through our representative legislative process.
Rural Vermont is now working with our Raw Milk Leadership team and our board to plan the next steps in our campaign to increase economic opportunity for farmers and access for their customers.
Please stay tuned for more updates as we continue to cultivate a common sense approach to raw milk regulation. If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com or call the Rural Vermont office at 223-7222.
The following issues and suggested changes to the current law have been consistently raised by producers at raw milk gatherings held across the state:
- Create a “Neighborly Scale” production tier that enables very small quantities of milk to be sold with limited regulations.
- Allow for sale of lightly processed raw dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, kefir, fresh cheeses, and ice-cream.
- Further develop testing rules and regulations that make it feasible for more farmers to sell at the Tier Two level.
- Expand sales to farmers’ markets and other central drop off locations. (NOTE: Act 149 allows delivery at farmers’ markets by Tier Two producers to prepaid, existing customers only.)
- Developing inspection protocols that promote a positive relationship between producers and inspectors.
- Remove productions limits to allow greater quantities of sales.
- Replace the current warning sign with language that is consistent with that used in other New England States. For example, the required signage in New Hampshire simply states: “Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health.”
If you are interested in getting involved in spreading the word about the benefits of farm fresh milk and the belief that farm fresh milk would contribute to thriving farms and healthy communities, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are more materials, including recordings of testimony, in the sidebar to the right, marked “Farm Fresh Milk Materials”.
Materials for Raw Milk Producers:
- Overview of requirements for Farmers’ Market delivery
- Raw Milk Law Cheat Sheet for Tier 1 and Tier 2 Requirements
- Raw Milk Sign Language Requirements
- Agency of Ag Raw Milk Guidelines 2015
- Agency of Ag Animal Health Requirements 2015 version
- Agency of Ag Tier Two Farm Inspection Form
- Rural Vermont’s 2015 Raw Milk Report to the legislature
- Template for a customer contact list, modifiable raw milk sample labels, and our template for transaction records.
- Current Vermont Statute on the sale of raw milk
- The 2009 bill, Act 62 (H. 125), as signed into law by the Governor (NOTE: the law has been changed since the passage of H.125)
- Rural Vermont has raw milk Warning Signs available that fit the specifications of the current law. For more information call (802) 223-7222.
Materials for Raw Milk Consumers:
- Resources for the Raw Milk Consumer
- The Weston A. Price Foundation, proponents of raw milk
- Looking to purchase raw milk? View the Directory of Vermont Raw Milk producers, hosted by realmilk.com
2014 Testimony, Reports, & Documents:
- Dr. Ted Beals 4/15/14 Testimony to the VT House Ag Cmte on S.70
- David Gumpert 4/10/14 Testimony to the VT House Ag Cmte on S.70
- Rural Vermont Board Member Tamara Martin 4/14/14 Testimony to the VT House Ag Cmte on S.70
- Lindsay Harris Op-Ed, published in the Rutland Herald 5/14/14
- Dr. Robert Luby Op-Ed, published in in Randolph Herald 3/13/14
Miscellaneous Raw Milk Links
- Sally Fallon Morell debates Bill Marler on the safety of raw milk. Listen here!
- Lindsay Harris’ Raw Milk Presentation to the VT Dietetics Association: The Value of Raw Milk as a Healthy Food
- Doug Flack’s 2/22/12 presentation on ‘Real Food, Real Health.’ Find the video by typing ‘Doug Flack’ into the search bar.