|Virginia Raw Milk Regulations|
|Sunday, 23 January 2005 16:57|
January 23, 2005
Beginning Wednesday, Virginia will require that all dairy products produced in Virginia--not just those from cow's milk--be pasteurized. The new regulations also require anyone manufacturing dairy products to obtain a license from the state, which may force some farmers to make costly upgrades in buildings and equipment.
The new law, written by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, unfairly hurts small farmers and organic-food lovers.
The sale of raw cow's milk and products made from it has been banned in the state since 1986. The change expands the law to cover dairy products from goats, sheep and other animals. Officials say the change is needed to protect public health. They say the law is intended to govern the sale of milk products, not consumption.
VDACS program supervisor John Beers, who helped draft the law, said it is based on guidelines from the federal Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture. At least 21 other states also ban the sale of raw milk products.
Several groups have lined up to oppose the change. They include the Virginia State Dairy Goat Association; the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, a Charlottesville-based nonprofit founded three years ago to protect consumer and farmer interests; and the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit in Washington "dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet."
Christine Solem, a VICFA co-founder and board member who sells goat cheese at her local Charlottesville, VA farmers market, petitioned the agriculture department to hold an evidentiary hearing before implementing the regulations. Her request was denied.
She filed an appeal Dec. 22 in Albemarle County Circuit Court alleging that the state "abused its discretion" in denying the hearing and that the regulations were "adopted without substantial evidence." The court will hear arguments March 28, but the state is moving forward on the new regulations in the meantime.
Microbiologist Lee Dexter is one person who says raw milk not only is safe, but may be healthier than pasteurized milk. The former USDA employee now sells goat's milk in Texas, where it is legal. Dexter has reviewed numerous cases worldwide and written a 28-page report on raw milk. She said most comments made by epidemiologists and public health officials on the dangers of raw milk are opinions and "are not based on scientific fact."
She said statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and papers published on those reports "suggest people drinking pasteurized milk are four times more likely to contract a food-borne illness" that those who drink raw milk. Dexter said "challenge tests" in which raw milk was inoculated with pathogens and examined later showed that the pathogens were destroyed. "Raw milk contains its own immune system," she said. Jenkins, the state epidemiologist, said she was not familiar with those tests.
VICFA is made up of about 300 farmers and consumers who enjoy raw milk products. They want the right to decide for themselves whom to trust about what they eat or drink. They note several instances in which public health officials were wrong, such as labeling margarine healthier than butter and warning that eggs are bad for people with high cholesterol. They are concerned the state will impose additional regulations on food in the future, said Joel Salatin, a co-founder and president of the association. "No more," Salatin said at the VICFA's monthly meeting Jan. 9. If regulations continue, he said, individuals will lose "heritage, home, hearth and indigenous foods" and be forced to eat only "global government industrial stuff."
Violating the regulations is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could bring penalties of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 for each offense. Violators also could face civil fines of up to $1,000.
TUESDAY Jan 25 is the LAST day of freedom we have on these reulations. We need a barrage of calls and emails to the governor, to the Secretary of Agriculture and to the members of the Agruculture committees.
Even if you have already communicated, please do so again, to AS many as possible to get the full committee aware.
When you can the legislators, try and speak to them (not likely to get) OR their aides. Secretaries often do not tally information.
The desire is:
â€¢ 2 VAC 5-531, REGULATIONS GOVERNING MILK FOR MANUFACTURING PURPOSES
â€¢ 2 VAC 5-501, REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE COOLING, STORING, SAMPLING AND TRANSPORTING OF MILK [41 pages].
TO SUPPORT the "raw dairy bill:"
HB2295 allows for exemptions from the regulations for goat cheese sold on the farm and at farmers' markets if signs are posted and cheese packages are labeled stating that the farm on which the cheese has been produced is not permitted or inspected. The bill also requires TB accreditation and brucellosis certification for the dairy herds.
HB2405 Allows for exemptions from the regulations for milk, butter, and cheese sold on the farm if the farmer owns no more than 3 milking cows or 12 milking goats.
If we can get these regulations suspended, and these bills enacted, even with a sunset clause, we will have the opportunity to develop true, comprehensive fluid dairy and raw
Here are the pertinent numbers and emails. In addition, NOT INSTEAD OF,
The Honorable Mark R. Warner
Also contact the new Secretary of Agriculture, Robert S. Bloxom
PHONE NUMBERS and EMAIL ADDRESSES
SENATE Agriculture Committee
Hawkins, Charles R., Chair (804) 698-7519 district 19, district19 (at) sov.state.va.us
HOUSE Agriculture Committee
Cox, M. Kirkland, Chair, (804) 698-1066 d 66, Del_Cox (at) house.state.va.us