Monday, June 9, 2014

Raw Milk Monday...IDPH Moves Forward in Their Goal to Eliminate Small Raw Milk Farmers

It's been awhile since I've posted an update on raw milk issues but now it's time to make you once again aware of the unethical and backhanded actions of The Illinois Department of Public Health. Very soon you'll have the opportunity to comment so now is the time to be aware of the facts.

First, a very brief overview. For decades raw milk sales were allowable in Illinois. There were no rules only "unenforceable policy." That is a direct quote from Molly Lamb of IDPH. She was given the task by her higher ups, of revising these policies so that could be enforced. A committee was formed ( Fall 2012) without raw milk farmer or consumer input but with representatives from the FDA, Illinois Farm Bureau and Large Dairy Co-ops like Prairie Farms and two pages of rules were drafted. After that draft evolved, I was asked to join the committee by Steve Diviencenzo of IDPH and when I discovered there were no other raw milk farmers or consumers on the committee I made noise. Ms. Lamb agreed to invite those others. The Dairy work group evolved into one equally divided between those supportive of raw milk production and consumption in Illinois and those against.

The group met monthly for 10 months and raw milk farmers were very clear that additional rules were not needed in light of the facts there were no reports of increasing raw milk related illnesses in our state. We very clearly put our objections into writing. IDPH pretended to listen but just as we thought we were making meaningful progress, he group was disbanded by Molly Lamb via an email in Nov. 2013. without warning.

Since then...

IDPH released in February 2014, NINE PAGES of proposed rules specific to raw milk production in Illinois. Yes, your math is correct. They started with no rules, drafted two pages of  proposed rules without consumer or raw milk farmer input and then AFTER we gave them the benefit of our time and expertise they fired us and then expanded their rules from two to nine pages.

Next month, July 2014, these proposed rules will become part of Illinois's Federal Register. From there YOU and I, the public, will have a 45 day comment period. If you care about the availability of raw milk in Illinois, if you are concerned about the inevitable closure of many small farms, if you feel strongly that YOU should be the one who decides what you and your family should consume then you must get ready to comment. The day is approaching with terrible speed. Please watch this blog and Illinois Alliance For Raw Milk Facebook Page. We will notify you when the official comment period begins and tell you how to make your opinion heard.

To help you prepare here are just a few of the most insane proposed rules concerning farmers who wish to sell raw milk directly from their farm premises.

   Any farmer with just one cow, sheep or goat who sells their raw milk must possess a permit
      from IDPH to do so. The permit would then require the farmer to submit to regular inspections
      and milk testing.
   Donating, bartering, distributing or even gifting of raw milk will be prohibited.
   Distribution agreements, herd shares or other contractual agreements will be prohibited.
   The farmer must maintain a log of all sales including the consumers name address and phone.
   The Farmer must report the annual amount of raw milk sold whenever IDPH requests such
   Warning signs about the dangers of raw milk must be posted and IDPH even states the font type
      (Arial) ink color (black) and letter size (at least two inches)
   No swine or poultry can be housed with lactating dairy cows.
   The flanks, udders, bellies and tails of cows must be free from all visible dirt.
   For every day that raw milk is sold the farmer must keep a sample a minimum of five days in
      a sanitary container at 32-40 degrees.

The proposed rules go on and on to include requirements for the milking parlor, the equipment used, extensive milk testing requirements and further mandatory reporting to IDPH. If you would like to see the entire listing please email me at and I will be happy to send them to you.

I predict the consequences of such rules, if passed will be this...

For those small farmers who might be able to meet these rules, (and my opinion based on the numerous farmers I've spoken to,  is that less than 1/3 of current raw milk farmers in Illinois will even be able to come close) the expense in upgrading milk parlors alone will cause raw milk prices to raise dramatically and raw milk supply to just as dramatically plummet.

Consumers will become frustrated with the hoops they have to jump through (giving their names, addresses and phone numbers for tracking purposes) that they will either buy raw milk from farmers not permitted by IDPH or lie about their contact info or cross state lines to get their raw milk with less hassle.

Decent hard working farmers who have healthy herds and clean enough environments (I mean come on, any farmer who keeps his herd on pasture as they should be, will never have cows that are "free of all visible dirt") will close their dairy doors, or sell their raw milk illegally risking the chance of what? Jail time? Expensive fines?  Public flogging? IDPH has yet to announce any consequences for farmers who choose not to follow the rules if passed.

Individuals who will recognize an opportunity to make big bucks from one or two cows will come out of the woodwork. Folks who have no business raising cows will buy a couple, sell the milk for exorbitant amounts without any regard for consumer safety or animal welfare. Think I am being dramatic? Think prohibition.

Or those who would rather make big bucks while touring the Midwest will start up black market raw milk transporting it in from other states. IDPH says they are worried about public health? Wait until desperate consumers start swallowing raw milk that has been on the back of a truck for the last 8 hours, has not been properly chilled, or poured into clean containers, or obtained from a suspicious source.

My bottom line is this. Illinois raw milk farmers have been selling large amounts of raw milk to thousands and thousands of raw milk consumers for many decades WITHOUT any significant raw milk related illnesses being reported.( In fact IDPH does not even consider a raw milk illness REPORTABLE, the risk being so minute.) Most of these farms are small and the majority are managed by experienced farmers with healthy pasture raised herds who are frequented by well educated consumers. These consumers have held us, the farmer, accountable without any prior help from IDPH. Granted no food is 100% safe and life is never risk free but the last thing we need in this state of great budget deficits and red-nose-wearing-bureaucratical- more rules.

The level of nutritional risk I choose to take for myself and my family should be my choice and mine alone.


  1. Donna, it is so hard to read this without getting boiling mad. How do you do it??? Of course I don't live in Illinois anymore, but this is a trend that will gradually effect us all unless more folks like you stand up to it. Bullies are usually cowards; so why is the general populace so afraid of policy makers like this?

    1. Leigh, your question is such an excellent one, I have to ask myself the same. Why aren't people totally furious about this? Well to be fair, thousands are and when the time comes we will see a very heated response to this attempt to control when control is not warranted. Sadly though, the more individuals are dependent on our government to feed them via unemployment checks, farm subsidies, food stamp programs the less likely they are to bite the hand that feeds them. In one very disturbing mtg with the Dairy Work Group last spring, Steve Divenvcenzo of the Illinois Department of Public Health was told by one of our raw milk committee members that IDPH had no business trying to control raw milk consumption in Illinois. Steve's response ? "I got news for you. We already control all the food in this state."

      As you can see those in Illinois government,(not all but the majority) truly believe it is their job to control, regulate and then punish.

      In another meeting of the Dairy Work Group, Molly Lamb of IDPH announced that if there was not currently a rule in place regarding raw milk or food sold at farmers markets or fill-in-the-blank, it was therefore by default; illegal.

      This is the very backwards, non-American-Constitution-mentality we are up against here in the Land Of Lincoln.


    2. " Steve's response ? "I got news for you. We already control all the food in this state.""

      Unfortunately, he's right. The law says that his office does appear have this control under the laws which your State government passed:

      (410 ILCS 620/) Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

      (410 ILCS 620/2.16) (from Ch. 56 1/2, par. 502.16)
      Sec. 2.16. The provisions of this Act regarding the selling of food, drugs, devices or cosmetics, include the manufacture, production, processing, packing, packaging, exposure, offer, possession and holding of any such article for sale; and the sale, dispensing and giving of any such article, and the supplying or applying of any such articles in the conduct of any food, drug or cosmetic establishment.
      (Source: Laws 1967, p. 959.)

      (410 ILCS 620/2.18) (from Ch. 56 1/2, par. 502.18)
      Sec. 2.18. "Raw agricultural commodity" means any food in its raw or natural state, including all fruits that are washed, colored or otherwise treated in their unpeeled natural form before marketing and honey that is in the comb or that is removed from the comb and in an unadulterated condition.
      (Source: P.A. 96-1028, eff. 1-1-11.)

      (410 ILCS 650/) Sanitary Food Preparation Act.

      " Sec. 1. That every building, room, basement, inclosure or premises, occupied, used or maintained as a bakery, confectionery, cannery, packing house, slaughter house, creamery, cheese factory, restaurant, hotel, grocery, meat market, or as a factory, shop, warehouse, any public or place or manufacturing establishment used for the preparation, manufacture, packing, storage, sale or distribution of any food as defined by statute, which is intended for sale, shall be properly and adequately lighted, drained, plumbed and ventilated, and shall be conducted with strict regard to the influence of such conditions upon the health of the operatives, employees, clerks, or other persons therein employed, and the purity and wholesomeness of the food therein produced, prepared, manufactured, packed, stored, sold or distributed.
      (Source: Laws 1911, p. 528.)"

      "Sec. 11. Except as hereinafter provided and as provided in Sections 3.3 and 4 of the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act, the Department of Public Health shall enforce this Act, and for that purpose it may at all times enter every such building, room, basement, inclosure or premises occupied or used or suspected of being occupied or used for the production, preparation or manufacture for sale, or the storage, sale, distribution or transportation of such food, to inspect the premises and all utensils, fixtures, furniture and machinery used as aforesaid; and if upon inspection any such food producing or distribution establishment, conveyance, or employer, employee, clerk, driver or other person is found to be violating any of the provisions of this Act, or if the production, preparation, manufacture, packing, storage, sale, distribution or transportation of such food is being conducted in a manner detrimental to the health of the employees and operatives, or to the character or quality of the food therein being produced, manufactured, packed, stored, sold, distributed or conveyed, the officer or inspector making the inspection or examination shall report such conditions and violations to the Department"

      And there is this as well - - under this act, they have the right to "provide for inspection and issuance of permits to operators of dairy farms, milk plants, receiving stations, transfer stations, milk hauler-samplers, milk tank trucks, and certified pasteurizer sealers" - not just limited to milk destined for pasteurizations.

      " Sec. 4. The Illinois Department of Public Health shall administer and enforce this Act. "

    3. SEvans...which is why all of us must get more involved, must talk to our representatives, must stop the Lemming response in the voting booth and must when push comes to shove stand tall and refuse to be intimidated. Obviously The Constitution of The United States has been abducted, raped and left to rot. And now a glimmer of the beginning of each of those Acts, the department lists "definitions". Within those definitions are huge gaps. Gaps that in the issue of raw milk, may allow IDPH to hang themselves.

  2. I read yesterday that FDA will not allow cheese makers to cure products on wood drying boards anymore.

    1. In a country where prescription drugs are at an all time high and the NUMBER ONE CAUSE of death in the elderly is drug interactions I find it so amazing that the FDA is spending their time and money on those who choose to cut the cheese for a living.

  3. The only way to combat this is to organize. The industrial producers have their own organization ( which lobbies on their behalf. Do the farm-fresh milk producers have their own organization yet, the equivalent of this one but serving your own farms? Take a look at the Raw Milk Association of Colorado website at - you may need something like this, incorporated as a nonprofit (i.e. Fight fire with fire.

    1. Yes Sevans, there is a group of interested raw milk farmers and consumers who are working together to oppose these rules. But the group is not incorporated as a not for profit like Colorado. What excellent information, I'll be in contact with them. Thank you so much!

  4. In light of recent regulatory agency 'visits' I'm surprised you asked about the 'fines'. Won't be a fine, they'll just come in with their black getups and black rifles and shoot all your animals. All of them, even the ones that aren't cows. Because you know, you are SUCH a danger to public health./snark. Best wishes in your fight.....fight hard!
    Jan in NWGA

    1. Hello Jan, we are sadly aware of the "consequences" many farmers have had to pay in various states such as Mark Baker in Michigan and Vernon Hershberger in Wisconsin (not to mention Canada's atrocious acts against farmer Michael Schmidt.) It is my deepest hope and desire that we can remain as brave and committed to the publics right to choose as those brave folk. Yes we will fight hard...I have no idea how to fight soft :)

  5. If Illinois raw milk consumers are willing to stand behind their farmers as they practice noncompliance, I believe you'll have the support of an entire country. Illinois is where the action is--regulators have pulled back in Wisconsin, Michigan, California, and other places, because consumers and farmers like Hershberger and Baker have stood tall. It's not easy to stand up to these criminals, but it must be done. The enforcers at the FDA must have told the Illinois regulators to go after your raw milk, and the Illinois regulators, who want to protect their FDA funding and jobs, are doing what they are told.

    1. David, thanks a million for weighing in on this. Your dedication and work in this arena has been a guiding light for many US farmers and consumers. For those of you not familiar with David Gumpert please check out his hard hitting, factually based blog The Complete Patient.

  6. Sister: Say the date and time, I will get back on the phone and update Adam Kinzinger again & Josh Harms (our reps): who will be all to happy to let IDPH know how insane this entire thought process is! Please minor in law at the U of I!
    ~ Maggie

  7. First time I've commented here, but I read this article and hope your fight is not in vain. If you do find the they legislated against the sale of raw milk for human consumption, you can always change your marketing strategy.

    I buy raw milk in Australia from a shop like any other, only its sold as bath milk. Raw milk can be sold as long as it contains the words ,"not for human consumption", and "for cosmetic purposes only".

    The only problem is, the bath milk is incredibly expensive to buy ($8-9 for 2 litres) because the farmers still have to comply with all the new regulations placed on their operations. So in that regard, I hope you win.