Support Legal Fund for Prosecuted Farmers
The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) has brought criminal charges against as many as 16 farmers for violations of that country’s Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers Regulations 2015 (the “2015 regulations”). As far as is known, none of the cases have actually gone to trial. At least five farmers have settled their cases by pleading guilty to a reduced number of charges and agreed to pay fines of as much as $50,000; in two other court actions where the farmers had plead guilty to violations of the raw milk laws, judges discharged the cases without convictions. Most of these farmers, whether or not they had to pay fines, owe tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Of these seven farmers, only one remains in the business of selling raw milk for human consumption. An attorney representing one of the farmers has been unable to find evidence that any of the charged farmers made anyone ill with the milk they produced.
ACTION TO TAKE
A GiveSendGo fund has been set up to help pay legal expenses for five of the prosecuted farmers (listed on the fund page). None of these farmers became rich selling raw milk—they were dedicated to producing healthy food for their customers and community. Please be there for them and help the farmers recover some of the losses they have suffered due to the unjust government enforcement actions.
To donate please go to this link, https://www.givesendgo.com/G9HAN.
Thanks for whatever help you can give.
The 2015 regulations were the catalyst for the prosecution against the dairies. The farmers are being prosecuted for a violation of laws designed to put them out of business. In addition to having to register with MPI, dairy farmers under the new regulations are required to:
- Sell the raw milk no more than 30 hours after the commencement of milking for the oldest milk in the lot. There had to be a time and date stamp on each container of milk. This requirement alone cost dairies customers. One farmer said the 30-hour limit left him unable to bottle his Saturday and Sunday milkings, costing him close to 30% of his business.
- Set a ‘consume by’ date of only four days after the commencement of milking for the oldest milk in the lot.
- Test milk for five different pathogens, coliforms, plate count, somatic cell counts, and “inhibitory substances” every ten days. Estimates for the costs of testing are around $750 per month.
- Register each depot (drop-point) they distributed milk at; the depots were critical for the farmers to be able to meet demand. One farmer was delivering milk to close to 40 depots at the time the new regulations went into effect. MPI did an audit of each depot twice the first year after registration and once every year thereafter at a cost to the farmer of $1200 per depot.
- Additionally, any customer wanting to pick up milk at a depot had to register as a Transport Operator (TO). There were onerous record-keeping requirements for individuals (TOs) picking up milk for their own family. TOs had to prove they can read and understand instructions, read a thermometer; keep a record of the supplier, date, time, quantity, lot number, use-by date, and temperature when they pick up the milk and do the same when they get it home. Only the person that picks up the milk can deliver it home in a hygienic vehicle in a satisfactory state of repair to a thoroughly cleaned and disinfected kitchen. The kitchen must be available for inspection. TOs must carry the milk in a “sanitised container” at or under 6 degrees C. They must also carry a spill kit.
The 2015 regulations had little to do with science and protecting the public health. Many farmers, believing that they would not be able to afford the cost of compliance with the new rules, distributed milk through contractual arrangements such as limited partnerships and herdshare agreements—arrangements they thought would exempt them from the new rules. When MPI saw that not many farms were registering, it launched a sting operation, “Operation Caravan”, against the unregistered raw milk farmers, leading to the ongoing criminal prosecutions.
The 2015 regulations have been a big success for MPI in driving raw milk farmers out of business. Shortly before the ministry issued the new regulations, there were upwards of 200 dairies selling raw milk; today there are around 25.🖨️ Print post