Monday, April 28, 2014
Raw Milk Monday...Illinois Farm Bureau Weighs in
Illinois Farm Bureau recently posted on their web site their view of the current raw milk battle in Illinois and although I do appreciate their moderate transparency , I certainly do not appreciate their very wishy washy stance, but I have never been a big fan of wishy washy in any arena. Either you support small farmers or you support Big Ag and Big Government. The article states "We support their right to choose, provided the dairy farmers that are producing this food product are subject to some oversight, and the milk is picked up at the farm in the consumer’s container."
Interesting how IFB "supports" the consumers right to choose. Since when do Americans need any organizations support to make our own choices? And the reference to some oversight is a blatant lie. The oversight has mushroomed from one small page to several pages of rules and regulations that if passed will be extremely detrimental to small raw milk farmers and consumers alike.
And why must the milk only be picked up at the farm? Several members of the dairy work group specifically stated they would be willing to endure more testing, and inspecting to ensure a safe product, if allowed to sell at farmers markets retail settings. But they were ignored and IDPH flipped over on them taking those (still proposed) additional testing and inspecting requirements and applying them to ALL raw milk producers, even those with JUST ONE COW OR GOAT!
Jim Fraley, author of the recent article has visited our farm and drank our raw milk. He has sat across from us as we all attempted to work together on the ill-conceived Dairy Work Group Committee created, controlled and disbanded (before any real consensus was reached) by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) in 2013.
He verbally supported the raw milk farmers and consumers who served on this committee and in fact when the group often came to a standstill where common ground seemed unobtainable, it was Jim who stood in front of both sides and pulled us towards goals we felt we all could live with. Keith and I felt like he was really hearing small raw milk farmers, and that he was well representing our concerns to the group HE worked for, The Illinois Farm Bureau.
But then when the general assembly was hearing the ill-gotten House Bill 4036 amendment #1 just last month, where Representative Burke was asking that all raw milk sales be made illegal in Illinois, Jim Fraley stopped taking our calls.
At that time, Keith and I left several messages for Mr Fraley. We wanted to hear directly from him how the Illinois farm Bureau felt about making all raw milk sales illegal in Illinois. Did he not tell us in the Dairy Work Group meetings that the Illinois Farm Bureau was against any BANS on raw milk sales? Did he know about this move by Representative Burke? Did his organization support it? Did he support it?
But as I said he did not return our calls or emails. Apparently "support" is circumstantial.
If I had to make a guess, I would say he wanted to talk with us, but was instructed by higher ups not too. Perhaps, like so many who work for larger organizations, instead of for themselves as most small farmers do, his personal opinion no longer mattered or held any power. So when we discovered this recently written article I have to say I was mightily disappointed and feel strongly that what actually occurred in those meetings of the dairy work group last year and what is still being reported is just night and day.
As it stands now...there are no new pending house bills banning raw milk sales (that we are aware of) but IDPH continues to sharpen their nails on the proposed rules for raw milk production and sales in Illinois. The latest draft I have seen now includes required testing of animals and milk samples that will be expensive and unnecessary. We will have the chance again to protest all these rules when they come up for public comment, perhaps this fall.
Until then, raw milk sales in Illinois are already being dramatically affected. I am aware that two of the farmers who served on the Dairy Work Group with us last year are planning to close their (barn) doors very soon. Not because any of their raw milk customers have gotten ill, not because they did not have enough sales but because of the stress they feel related to the looming oversight of their own government.
As a result our raw milk sales have exploded and after making several new customers wait a few months (until our cows were again on pasture and producing more milk) we are as of yesterday CLOSED to all new raw milk customers. We simply do not have enough. We do have a waiting list and they are comprised of those who got their milk up north but can no longer find a good source. Willing to drive up to three hours for fresh, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk.
As more small farms decide to close their doors (and not just raw milk farmers) more Illinois residents will be forced to either accept farm products brought over the state lines from farms they have never seen produced by farmers that will have no opportunity to meet, or they will take their money out of the state and spend it elsewhere. Raw milk products brought into Illinois from other states will be MORE likely to cause illness due to long transportation times. In addition the loss of revenue for Illinois will only further cripple this states infrastructure, consequences we warned them about repeatedly.
Of course, they did not listen.