Monday, May 17, 2010

Massachusetts Raw Milk Protest and Hearing

In January, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) sent cease-and-desist orders to four raw milk buying clubs in Massachusetts.

For weeks, citizens anticipated a public hearing on May 10 to discuss the amendments to the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 330 CMR 27, "Standards and Sanitation Requirements for Raw Milk," which would outlaw buying clubs and make it illegal for individuals to entrust another person to purchase raw milk at the farm on their behalf.

However, just 3 days before the hearing, at around 5 pm on Friday, May 7, the MDAR announced that the proposed language related to raw milk purchase in section 27.08, which would make buying clubs illegal, would be removed and unavailable for commentary at the hearing until the MDAR took a "broader look at the issues" due to "passion and concern" on the raw milk debate.

Despite the confusion on whether or not the MDAR had backed off on the new proposed language, last Monday, over 200 citizens, including raw milk enthusiasts, dairy farmers, and Suzanne the cow, gathered on the Boston Common to protest for their right to access raw milk before the hearing at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

Protesters at the rally marched to the hearing at the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. In fact, because so many people wished to attend the hearing, some were not given access to attend, hear, see, or participate in the public hearing.

Although certain portions of 330 CMR 27 had been withdrawn, individuals were still allowed to testify about the buying club issue to Commissioner Soares, which many people did.

Over three and a half hours, 49 people testified about their passion for raw milk. Issues raised regarding section 27.08 included benefits of raw milk, the right for individuals to decide what they eat and drink, decreased access to raw milk and increased fossil fuel consumption if each consumer needs to drive long distances to the isolated dairy farms, and the economic impact of individuals losing jobs if buying clubs become outlawed. Some other issues:
  • Pasteurization was invented in 1864 and was not applied to milk until years later. Prior to that, people consumed raw milk for thousands of years.
  • Small dairy farms already go through rigorous inspection to ensure that the raw milk that they produce is safe (read the Massachusetts Raw Milk Laws and Regulations).
  • Although the MDAR states that they support the purchase of local products from local farms, making buying clubs illegal will put many small dairy farmers in Massachusetts out of business.
Numerous raw milk enthusiasts and raw milk dairy farmers testified, and some familiar faces included Mark McAfee from Organic Pastures in California, Max Kane from Wisconsin, and David Gumpert, author of the Raw Milk Revolution and The Complete Patient.

While some individuals stated that the regulations should go back to as they were so that the buying clubs can still operate, others argued that raw milk should be made even more accessible.

In some states of the U.S., such as California, raw milk can be sold in retail stores. In other states, any sales of raw milk are considered illegal. In Massachusetts, raw milk can only be sold at the dairy farm. Check out this map. Meanwhile, in Europe, there are even raw milk vending machines.

After listening to the numerous testimonials in support of raw milk, Commissioner Soares stated that a decision would be made within 30 days, and that many of the testimonials made regarding the buying clubs would be "more applicable" at future hearings on the raw milk debate as the MDAR continues to take its "broader look" into raw milk.

In the meantime, the cease-and-desist orders still haven't been withdrawn, the buying clubs are still not allowed to operate, and small dairy farmers continue to lose money daily.

Related coverage:

More Info on Raw Milk in Massachusetts:

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