Yes, I am aware it is Tuesday but modems don't care. They crash when they crash. But the new one is up and running and so am I. Two days late and way more than a dollar short.
So, last week I left you with virtually nothing on the raw milk front in Illinois. The WEEK BEFORE I informed you of the Raw Milk Steering Committee put together by IDPH and the proposed rules. This week, prepare to be overwhelmed with information.
The proposed rules are numerous and although Molly Lamb the Division Chief of The Food Drugs and Dairies Department of The Illinois Department of Public Health told me in one of two extended phone conversations she and I have had, that the rules are not new just a reorganization of older rules...that is indeed not fact.
Previously in Illinois you could sell raw milk as long as the consumer came to the farm with their own container. And you were not supposed to advertise but we know how hard it was to get anyone to verify the existence of THAT law. The new proposed rules are:
1. Raw Milk Sales shall only be obtained physically from the premises of the dairy farm
2. No Person who, as a consumer, obtains raw milk shall be entitled to sell or redistribute the raw milk.
3.Cow share agreements or any other similar contractual agreements or exchanges are prohibited.
4. All dairy farms selling or distributing raw milk shall be required to obtain a Grade A permit from the regulatory agency.
5. Only unsolicited sales are allowed. The sale or distribution of raw milk from the dairy farm shall be limited to no more than 100 gallons, regardless of species, per month.
6. Records of these transactions shall be kept on a department approved log and shall be submitted on a monthly basis by the 15th of the following month. Will include date and volume sold.
7. Advertising, which includes but is not limited to signage, print ads, social media sites and websites, of the sale and distribution of raw milk is prohibited.
8. Individuals shall bring their own milk containers to the dairy farm for dispensing of the raw milk. The dairy farm shall provide a sanitary method for dispensing the raw milk in the consumer’s container.
9. The dairy farm shall provide a label for the container of raw milk. The label shall read “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore, may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause serious illness in children, women who are pregnant, and in persons with weakened immune systems.
10. At the point of dispensing the dairy farm shall post the Following 8 by 10 sign “NOTICE: Raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization”
11. The dairy farm shall have their raw milk tested for
Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, E. Coli , somatic cell counts, bacteria, coliform, temperature, and drug residues, on a monthly basis
12. The Coliform will be less than or equal to 10 and bacteria less than 20,000 and SCC: 750,000
Obviously...IDPH has changed the rules a bit.The argument could be made that the Raw Milk Steering Committee of IDPH created the new proposed rules but since I was not invited to attend the committee until AFTER the first two mtgs, I really have no idea who created which rule.
But I do know this. The rules are very obviously set forth if not to make raw milk sales in Illinois illegal, to at least make them, impossible. The 3 most stringent are A. The prohibition of Cow Share agreements, B. The Grade A Permit requirement and C. The limit of sales per month at 100 gallons.
I'll tell you why.
Cow share or similar contractual agreements are private, between the farmer and the consumer. It provides a certain safety net between he who produces the milk and he who drinks it. By leasing the cow to the consumer they are merely drinking product from the animal they are renting from the farmer. The milk in essence belongs to the consumer , not the farmer. The farmer is just providing a service by taking care of the animal. Many Chicago area raw milk consumers, but a few in our area as well, participate in cow share agreements. Prohibiting such could eliminate the availability of wholesome raw milk to literally thousands of consumers.
The requirement of a Grade A Permit is another potentially crippling requiremement. For those of us who were Grade A permitted in the past it would take very little for us to be ready to be inspected again, to meet the Grade A standards. We never wanted to give up that Grade A License in the first place, but when we told IDPH three years ago we were only going to sell raw milk direct to the consumer and no longer to the co-ops they said they saw no need to survey us. They took the license from us even though we had no deficiencies. As far as they were concerned we did not exist. .
Suddenly, we exist again.
For raw milk farmers with just a few cows or a few goats, building a Grade A Facility would cost a minimum of $20,000 with the requirement of concrete floors, expensive pipe lines, stainless steel bulk tanks etc...All that for a farmer who milks 3 goats and sells raw milk to 5 customers ?!? Now couple that with the third most disturbing proposed rule..
Limiting the monthly raw milk sales to 100 gallons of milk per month. With raw milk being sold for an average of $8 per gallon per month ( ours is $6, much higher in Chicago area) with the 100 gallon limit I would make $800. Now which bank is going to lend a farmer $20,000 for a Grade A Dairy Construction when his monthly raw milk income is just $800 MINUS EXPENSES.?
The other proposed rules in and of themselves are not entirely out of line but why is the state of Illinois, that has NO MONEY even suggesting adding layers of bureaucracy, increased inspector wages, increased documentation monitoring when they don't have the funds to oversees the current rules they have in place?
And why now? With not a single verified raw milk illness related to raw milk obtained from an Illinois farmer since 1999, why would IDPH want to start "fixing" something that is clearly not broke? In fact the current system of obtaining raw milk in Illinois has been working so well it's not even nicked, or marginall scarred, let alone broke.
So, now what? Well, I got to work. First order was to notify all the raw milk farmers I knew of the proposed rules. Emails, phone calls and FB messages were sent. Then it was time to call in Farm to Consumer Legal Defense. FTCLD notified the farmers they knew and directed me towards other actions such as included the Chapter Leaders of the Westin A Price Foundation. Conference calls were conducted. On March 15, I organized a meeting of Illinois Raw Milk Farmers in Normal, Il.
THAT was an amazing meeting. Farmers with spouses and small children, farmers with large cow herds and some with just a few, farmers with goats, farmers with cows, farmers who drove 3hours one way after chores and then had to drive 3 hours home before doing shores again.
And we, this small but passionate group made a decision. We had a message for IDPH. The message was "NO"
We did not feel we could negotiate on any of the proposed rules without cutting off the legs of some raw mik farmer somewhere in Illinois. If we said yes to the Grade A Permit who knew how many farmers would be forced to close their barn doors? If we agreed to the 100 gallon limit most of us in the room would go bankrupt. If we said yes to the Cow Share prohibition we'd take raw milk out of the hands of so many in the big cities who had no way to travel to the farm to get their milk.
So we said "NO"
The group asked me to contact Molly Lamb at IDPH with our response and our request to leave the rules for raw milk, as is. No changes. I made that phone call on March 19. The conversation was professional and polite. She listened to what I had to say. I listened too.
But she saw no reason to stop the process. She was, however open to having more raw milk advocates on the committee. Names have been submitted. I hope she contacts them because the process has no validity if indeed both sides of the issue are not well represented.
Next step. IDPH's Raw Milk Steering Committee meets again May 1st. The place, Illinois Agricultural Association Building 1701 Towanda Ave, Bloomington, Il 10am. This is an open meeting. It is crucial that those of us in Illinois who believe raw milk accessibility should not be restricted, make their views known by attending this meeting.
In the meantime you can write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, contact your Representatives, tell the farmer you buy raw milk from and make sure they are aware of IDPH's actions, write a letter to Molly Lamb. Make it personal. Tell her why limiting access to raw milk in Illinois is not a good idea. Tell her how it would affect you, your family, YOUR farmer. Her address is
Molly Jo Lamb
Department of Food Drugs and Dairies
Illinois Department of Public Health
535 W. Jefferson St. Springfield, Illinois
62761 ph 217-782-4977
Please help us take action NOW before these proposed rules become permanent ones.
To see all the raw milk issues in Illinois as they develop please go to THIS WEB PAGE . Special thanks to our raw milk customer Ernest Rando for developing this all inclusive web page.