Monday, March 11, 2013

Raw Milk Monday

Please note: If you are new to my blog you can catch up on the reasons for my raw milk passion and the struggles our own farm have experienced, by reading any of the previous posts on the topic I have written over the last 3 years . To do so, simply enter "Raw Milk" in the search bar under the picture of our house, on the right.

Much has happened in the last seven days since my last raw milk update. In between the taking and receiving of numerous phone calls, the organizing of meetings, the compiling of statistics and data, the writing of emails and snail mails ...Keith and I managed to squeeze in a mini-vacation to Pennsylvania. We had a sow to deliver out East, a 1600 mile round trip, and we were DETERMINED to get her there. I'll tell you about that soon.

Today though, it's back to the new proposed rules regarding raw milk sales in Illinois. Since we've chatted last I've also talked with another 30 or so raw milk farmers across this fine state. Farmers who differ widely in practice from selling the milk of one goat every so often adding next to nothing to their income to one who markets his raw milk from a large cow herd to hundreds each month across a very large part of the state. It is his only source of income.

I will be meeting with these farmers soon. If you are a raw milk farmer, you need to know about this meeting. Please call me at 815-635-3414

There is no "typical" raw milk farmer in Illinois. Some are ready to stand up and fight while others are so afraid of losing their farms they are at this point, choosing to remain mum and under the radar. Then there are those in the middle who have shared info with me and made it clear it was to stay with me...and it will. None of this was surprising, nor was I surprised at those who are ready to fight, and ready to organize their customers to do the same. Count us in among that group. This is a fight we have been preparing for, for many years.

This  week we placed handouts in our milk room and our farm store informing our customers of what IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) is proposing and the impact it would have on small raw milk farmers. Now its time to tell all of you as well since inaccurate rumors have gone viral.

Rumors are such a waste of time.

The Current Rules for raw milk sales are fairly simple when you can get them in one place but they are currently scattered within the  (Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Milk Products Act and have been open to much interpretation over the years. This is my own summary of those rules:

The consumer must come to the farm with their own container.

The milk does not have to be pasteurized if sold or distributed on the premises of the dairy farm

There is nothing in this section of Illinois Statures 410 ILCS 635, that talks about advertising although many of us have been told we cannot advertise our raw milk sales.

So, in all and compared to to other states, these rules are not so bad. So why mess with them? I was told in my first Raw Milk Steering Committee Mtg that the primary reason was to "get all the rules in one place."

OK. Not such a bad goal. Many Illinois farmers have no idea where to look for the rules regarding raw milk sales. Reorganization could be good. Except that when "reorganized" the proposed rules came out looking like this:

All dairy farms selling raw milk shall be required to obtain a Grade A permit.

Only unsolicited sales are permitted and cannot exceed 100 gallons a month regardless of species.

Cowshare agreements or other contractual agreements are prohibited.

Records or raw milk transactions shall be kept on a department approved log and submitted on a monthly basis by the 15th of the month

Individuals shall bring their own containers to the farm for dispensing of the milk and the farmer shall provide a sanitary method for dispensing

The dairy farm shall provide a label for the container of raw milk with this "Warning:This product has not been pasteurized and therefore, may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause serious illness..."

At the point of dispensing the dairy farm shall post an 8" by 10" warning sign "Notice: Raw milk Sold Here. Raw Milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization."

The dairy farm shall have shall have their milk supply analyzed for pathogens on a monthly basis in a certified laboratory...results to be submitted to the agency.

The dairy farm shall assume all liability involved with the sale and distribution of the raw milk.

Now, personally speaking, some of these rules, particularly ones about testing may not be so bad. We already do this at our own expense but its' important that I explain the consequences of some of the other rules. For brevity sake I'll just talk about the first two or "The Worst Two" as I like to think about them. I'll cover the others on future Mondays.

All dairy farms shall be required to obtain a Grade A permit.

For those of us who may have had the permit before, but had it yanked from us by IDPH when we made the decision to sell direct to consumers ONLY, it would take very little to return to these standards. Most have been following them all along but for those farmers with just a few goats or cows who have never been Grade A, it would cost a MINIMUM of $20,000 for a very small very basic Grade A Dairy. We're not just talking about following the rules but also the concrete floors that must be poured, the pipelines that must be installed, the stainless steel bulk milk tanks to be purchased and put in place. Now couple that with the next proposed rule...

Only unsolicited sales are permitted and cannot exceed 100 gallons a month regardless of species.

So, lets assume the average price per gallon of raw milk is $8. If you can only sell 100 gallons, how long would it take you to raise the capital to build your  Grade A Dairy? And if you have to be Grade A before you can sell that milk then you will have to come up with that money long before you could start milking. This means that even if you own just ONE cow or ONE sheep or ONE goat and you sell any part of that milk you have to build a Grade A Dairy. With a limit of 100 gallons a month or roughly a annual revenue of $9600 it would be difficult to call your farm "sustainable."

Are you starting to see the picture here? And I've only barely touched on two of the proposed rules.
My husband laid it out best when he said "It's not that they are going to make raw milk sales illegal, they're just going to make them impossible."

What can you do? If you live in Illinois stay tuned to this blog. Action plans are being written. If you know of a raw milk farmer in Illinois ask him/her if aware of these proposed rules . If not please have them to call me at 815-635-3414. If you are a follower who lives out of state, stay turned anyway. We will need your support.



  1. Why don't these interfering busy-bodies mind their own bloody business.

  2. Cro, may I quote you at the next mtg? Providing IDPH allows me to even attend another mtg.

  3. Want to bet that the Association of Big Dairy's is behind these changes? Can't make it illegal so the next best thing is to make it nearly impossible to access your competitors product.

    If the changes were strictly about improving safety/quality of milk (i.e. monthly testing) that would be one thing. But to intentionally jack up the cost of production while eliminating any chance to recover that cost has nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with controlling the market. Why else would they insist on Grade A facilities and monthly testing only to severely restrict the amount of the "safe product" that can be sold?

    Thanks for spearheading this fight. This is now right at the top of my list of food rights to support along with the "feral" pig issue in Michigan. Looking forward to hearing about how us out of staters can help.

  4. Are the names of the people who "proposed" these rules public? If so, could you kindly post them, or a link to where they can be found?
    I'm of the mindset that "people" who are in positions such as them need to be SHUNNED by society. Really. Especially those in a political position. Times are getting nasty, it's time to get nasty back at them until people realize that abusing power will result in consequences. Kind'a like the tarred & feathered tax collector from "days of old".

  5. Perhaps you are the Ester of raw milk...for such a time as this. Thank you so much for not rolling over and playing dead! Our local feed store recently posted a little phrase on their advertising board. "Mushroom therapy: Keep em in the dark and feed em manure." I'm starting to see how true that has become. I also had a lady tell me yesterday that her teeth began falling out and needing to be removed in her mid 60s and someone told her about raw milk. She found some and has been consuming daily and her teeth have stopped having issues and she hasn't felt so good in a long time. With no other dietary changes. Dang!

  6. Paul. Sorry, Can't take that bet. We need money to help pay for all the expenses related to this struggle. To fight this, farmers will have to cough up $ from their pockets. IDPH on the other hand will do their work against the small farmer while receiving a salary paid for with our taxes. How's that for ironic?

  7. Carolyn. Not publically. Not yet. Only because I am hopeful(slightly) that the committee can be educated about the true economic loss to farmers and the state of Illinois as well. I want to be able to say we gave them every opportunity to make an EDUCATED decision when it comes time for the committee to vote on these proposed rules. After that....if the rules go to a comment period open to the public, all bets are off.

  8. Donna,
    I'm in Illinois myself I am not currently selling raw.milk but have been considering it and really don't have much of an idea on where to get started. This is the first I have heard of the proposed rule change. Would you mind emailing me I have a few questions on how to get started.

  9. Hi Donna,

    Just found your blog via a farm page on Facebook who linked to you because of these rule changes. I'm not a producer. Heck, I'm not even a consumer of raw mile because I can't find a local producer. (I'd love to find someone near me, but I can't because they can't advertise. ARGH!) I'm on board to fight this. Already trying to spread the word and will stay tuned to your blog. Thanks!


  10. Brandy, I just sent you an email. How can I help?

  11. Diana. try farmers are not suppossed to advertise but their customers can advertise for them (Is that not goofy?)

  12. Why does everything have to be a battle?? Grrr

  13. Would the milk be able to be sold "for pets only" like one farm in the Bloomington area sells "cat milk" at their farm. I actually don't get our raw milk there, but I am aware that they do it that way and that is how raw milk was labeled when we lived in Georgia.


  14. Just learned about this issue and I am ready and willing to help in this fight. I will be following this. I live near Springfield, IL and would LOVE to find a raw milk producer. didn't turn anything up for me. :( It is insane that we can't make our own choices about what we want to eat and drink!

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