|Raw Milk Wheels...turn Slowly In Illinois|
But we left the very last meeting feeling as if a hard cold glass of "authoritative" water had been splashed in our faces.
I will admit, it is difficult at times to decide how much to share on this blog. Will I irritate a higher up and cause them to pull out their claws and do damage to the progress we've made out of embarrassment or spite? But after last weeks meeting I have to bonk myself on the head for worrying so much about those in power when it has been made blatantly clear they are not concerned at all with either the raw milk consumer or the raw milk farmer.
They have an agenda and it must be met.
I'll explain. In June during a conference call, a very heated conference call, details can be found HERE. IDPH agreed we could start with a "clean slate." We were jubilant, well as jubilant as a bunch of farmers can get :)
In July we met in person and although again, a few tense moments as a some of us again tried to get Molly and Steve to admit there was no REASON for raw milk rules, even though they had the power to do so. We also asked time and again how it was that any of the future rules might apply to us since none of the farms present even met the definition of "dairy farm" since none of us sold to a co-op.
"Dairy farm" means any place or premise where one
We had also been told in June there would be a representative from the legal department of IDPH at the July mtg but in July...no legal representative just Molly who stated "That's just not going to happen" She went on to say that since she had talked to them we basically were going to have to take her word. She was them, they were her, that kind of mantra.
Really? IS there just three employees of IDPH not totally intimidated by our small pro-raw milk group? No one else can be bothered to come to one of these Dairy Work Group Meetings.?
But then there were good things that occurred in July, despite the set back of not being able to meet with IDPH's legal department. We suggested a two tier system for raw milk produces making Tier 1 very simple to meet and in return sales would be from the farm only. We keep it simple and THEY will keep it simple. Tier 2 would take more time to hammer out but basically required regular inspections, monthly milk testing , The meeting of Grade A or similar standards like those of the Raw Milk Institute testing but in return sales would be allowed at Farmers Markets, possible retail and definitely by delivery and cow share agreements. Looking back I now see it as a "Balm" before the storm.
Last week it all got flipped back on us. Like a backwards time traveling trip to February, coach class.
Molly Lamb could not make the Sept 10 mtg and had to do it by conference call which made communication that much more difficult. I prefer, when folks go back on their word, to see their face up close and personal. Steve Divencenzo from IDPH had lots of papers scattered around him, a deep barrier of sorts.
We agreed to focus on Tier 1. Our requirements as send to Steve and Molly the week before as agenda items were:
1. Voluntary registration with the state
2. Informational signs on the farm informing customers the milk was not pasteurized
3. Direct to consumer sales/consumer containers
In exchange the state would allow the farmer to sell directly off the farm. Easy Peasy huh?
But after several minutes of "review" Steve began to read from his many papers a long list of requirements for the Tier 1 section of proposed raw milk sales as given to him by IDPH's Legal Department. Seems he and Molly had met with them just the day before and No, he did not have copies of those items to share with our group , as he said, they "had run out of time."
On Steve's list, supposedly recommended by the legal beagles of IDPH was the following, all to be included under Tier 1
1. Mandatory Registration of all raw Milk Farms, A lifetime permit after initial inspection and "course completion"
2. Informational Signs on the farm informing customers the milk was not pasteurized
3. Listing of raw milk farms maintained by IDPH on their web site
4. Raw Milk sold only from the Farm Premises.
5. Farmers to provide containers and be responsible for their cleanliness **
6 List of customer names, amount sold, contact info to be shared with IDPH on request.***
7. Dairy Farm will post. "This dairy farm is not routinely inspected by Public Health"
8. Farmer will give receipt to consumer with each sale stating farm contact information, and animal species from which the raw milk originated.
9.Customers be given the opportunity to tour the farm.
10.Dairy farm must give consumer bulletin on their operations, their web site, their safety issues
11. IDPH will be allowed to inspect as wanted or with complaint
12. IDPH can rescind Tier 1 permit if the above not met
13. Raw milk Sale will be limited ****
Once again proper meeting protocol is just thrown out the window , ( the agenda finally emailed back to participates four days before the meeting is far from the actual one used at the meeting) thus not allowing us time to even consider the recommendations of IDPH's legal team or how they might impact us, reminder that we the farmers and consumers are not so much equal partners in this quasi-democratic process as much as 4th cousin guests being allowed to participate in the Great Oz's little Green Velvet Curtain Show.
Yeah, I'm ticked.
Lets review why. In June Molly and Steve agreed to a clean slate but now several of the first proposed rules we objected too, (customer record keeping and submissions, sales limits, mandatory inspections, Grade A permits) which disappeared from the agenda in July are back on the list. No wait! They were NOT on the Sept. 10 agenda. They were instead verbally read to us by Steve. And when we farmers and consumers objected? Molly back tracked (barely) by telling us through the phone lines, that these items (strongly recommended by IDPH's legal department) were still just "up for discussion?
In addition, not only were the proposed rules we thought long gone, reincarnated like some kind of statute draped Zombie, NEW rules have been added. Numbers , 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13. New rules Such as "Customers allowed to tour the farm" Now, please note, there is not a farmer at this table who does not often give tours to customers. But we do it because we want to, because we are proud of our farms, because we have nothing to hide, NOT BECAUSE the state requires us too.
I can just see it now. A customer, on their way home from night shift wants to tour our farm at 7am> We say not a good time, in the middle of milking, can you come at 11? And we are reported to the state, found out of compliance" and lose our permit!!
One good word from Molly this last meeting, "We will not prohibit advertising" Pretty much a moot point since they are aware they have absolutely no way to enforce that. Giving in on that one is much like throwing a juicy bone to a toothless hound.
How very generous.
Stay tuned. We've only just begun. Our next meeting with IDPH is November 16.
** During the Sept 10 meeting the group convinced Molly this would not work well putting the farmer at great risk and that the consumer must bring and clean their own containers. Molly agreed. (for now?)
*** Again the group of farmers and consumers strongly disagreed and Molly stated "We will work on the wording."
**** This last tidbit was thrown out at us by Steve, AFTER Molly signed off her call,and just seconds before calling the meeting over. He actually laughed a little. and said "I'm sure you'll want to discuss this at the next meeting but don't worry there will be no limits in Tier 2!"