Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Raw Milk Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday

Two days ago,  the Dairy Work Group, a subcommittee of the Food Safety Advisory Committee, a group that reports to the head of The Illinois Department of Public Health, met again.

Got that?

Layers of confusion is what government does best. Transparency of those layers is where government fails.

In a shocking confession, (not very) IDPH Food Drugs and Dairies Director Steve Divicenzo announced in our meeting Nov. 4, that "We already control all the food in Illinois" when one of our group members stated that the last thing this state needed was more government oversight of food produced on small farms.

What Mr. Divincenzo did not hear, because he so often chooses not to listen to us,  was the muttering of several farmers at the table to the tune of "Oh no you don't" Granted, the meeting started out mired in great frustration on both parties parts. Every time we think we are making progress IDPH slams us with incorrect interpretation of what was said at the last meeting. For example, the minutes we received just ONE business day before this last meeting, reported that we were all in agreement with a two tier system that under Tier 1 would require inspections and a mandatory permit for those farmers who wish only to sell to those customers who come to the farm.

That is NOT what we said. We were very clear, or so we thought until we saw the minutes, that we were opposed to any inspections under the proposed Tier 1.

Tired of this trend, several of us created and signed the following letter which I read at this meeting and then handed to Molly Lamb. Perhaps THIS time what we say and what is recorded in the minutes will actually match up. But I guess we won't know until the next meeting which has not yet been scheduled.

Molly Jo Lamb

Chief, Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies

Illinois Department of Public Health

 525 West Jefferson Street

Springfield, IL  62671



Steve DiVincenzo

Illinois Department of Public Health

 525 West Jefferson Street

Springfield, IL  62671



November 4, 2013



Dear Molly and Steve,


Several of us who are current members of the Dairy Work Group, a subcommittee of the Food Safety Advisory Group of the Illinois Department of Public Health are concerned about the direction this group is taking.


Specifically, since receiving the minutes of the September 10, 2013 meeting emailed to us on Oct 31, 2013, it has become clear that what we are saying at the meetings and what is being heard by yourself and Steve and furthermore, what is being recorded, is very different. For the purposes of this letter we are referring to the most recent example, the proposed criteria for raw milk farms under a further proposed two tier system.


In order to clarify this issue we wish to put into writing our recommendations for a Tier 1 classification of raw milk producers. They are:



1. Voluntary registration by the raw milk farmer with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

2. Posting of informational signs on the farms where raw milk is sold, stating that the milk is not pasteurized.

3. Direct to consumer sales from the premises of the raw milk farm only, with the consumer providing his own container.



Any other suggested requirements for a raw milk farm under a Tier 1 designation such as inspections, limited sales amounts, mandatory testing, required permits, etc...Have not been agreed to by those of us who have signed this letter.


We also request that you attach this letter to the minutes of today’s November 4, 2013 meeting so that there will be no further confusion regarding what we have and have not agreed to in regards to a Tier 1 designation.


Thank you,

The rest of the meeting was fairly tense as we once again asked why there needed to be any rules at all, and why these meetings could not be more better structured as they might be if we utilized Roberts Rules or some other civilized manor of actually voting on ideas presented.

Cue Molly and her repeat speech about how our group has not real power (we know already) and how basically we are so dang lucky to have IDPH even including us in the process. But, they made the mistake of asking us for our opinions and we, rebel farmers that we are, keep doing just that.

Fortunately, Jim Fraley a representative of the Illinois Farm Bureau, showed great initiative by going to the board and bravely waving a dry erase marker, he created two columns. One for "Agree" and one for "Disagree"  Finally, some structure.!  Fairly soon it became obvious that indeed we were making progress and yes, we did agree on several points...but having Tier 1 farms inspected...still not one of them.

Our task this week, is to go through the two full pages of "proposed rules" given to us, not written by us, because in case you haven't heard, we are against any inspections for Tier 1 farms, and tell Molly and Steve our opposition to them.

I guess she thinks if she puts this broken record on the turn table enough times we'll actually play it.

Guess again.


  1. I've only once been 'Chairman' of a committee, and the minutes of the previous meeting were always read, and approved, at the next. Does this not happen in your case? Altering spoken opinions should be a sacking offence; maybe you should have a word with whoever took the notes.

  2. Sadly the minute taking was assigned to an intern. An innocent kid who was given no direction. I felt bad for him after I made so many corrections to the minutes. And yes, for the past nine months minutes have been taken. Often by different people, often incorrectly and at the next mtg the "leaders" would ask if any corrections but at this last mtg that same lowly leader said to the other lowly leader "Do we normally do that?" when I asked if they were going to ask for minute corrections. After each mtg I have to wonder, are these people really this ignorant or so smart to be acting so ignorant ? As yet, I have no answer.

  3. What you're going through sounds very like what I'm reading about right now. The government truly believes it knows what's best for everyone. Unfortunately. Keep fighting the good fight. We've enjoyed all your products, especially the milk. My boys and I love it.

    1. Thank you JK. The process has been a real eye opener for us. A representative from Prairie Farms who has attended the meetings for many months, never contributes his opinion. When I asked him about this last week he said to all of us :I'm just hear to observe and report" With responses like that, it is no wonder the small farmer no longer trusts those in Big Ag.