Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Raw Milk Monday/Tuesday...we've been Fired!

I always said...IDPH could pull this whole thing out from under us at any time.
I hate it when I'm right.

On Nov. 21 Molly Lamb and Steve Divencenzo of the Illinois Department of Public Health disbanded the Dairy Work Group telling us our input was no longer needed.

In other words, we've been fired!

At our last meeting on November 4th, the members of the Dairy Work Group managed to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as well as drafting what we thought were reasonable rules for the Tier 1 portion of a proposed two tier raw milk dairy program in Illinois. The main area os disagreement under Tier 1? Most of us at the table and I do mean a MAJORITY as I asked for hands to be raised, felt that voluntary registration for Tier 1 would be best.

The very small minority at the table wanted Mandatory registration and permit with required inspections.

We agreed when we left that day to continue communications via email.

We DID NOT discuss any requirements for Tier 2, as we had said many many times we would not move forward until Tier 1 rules were agreed. At no time during the meeting did Molly or Steve tell us that it was our last meeting.

Because they prefer to do things behind the farmers/consumers back, that's why. Open and direct communication, transparency, is not within their skillset.

So that brings us to Molly's email of Nov. 21 telling us Ba Bye and thanks for your input but we don't intend to use any of it. OK, that's not exactly true. We did realize some gains. They (so far) have left out the limit on how much milk we can sell and they have eliminated the prohibition on advertising.

Very generous of them don't you think since both of those rules would not likely have made it past their legal department anyway. Limiting the amount of milk sold would get them in hot water everywhere and telling us we cannot advertise when all other products a farmer produces can be advertised? They also knew with Facebook, web sites, Twitter, they was NO WAY they could ever monitor the advertising done, let alone enforce it.

Molly gave us just until yesterday, Dec. 2 to get our final comments (like I will ever be done commenting!) on the proposed rules that we the raw milk farmers and consumers did not agree to, back to her and or Steve Divencenzo.  Yes, 6 business days to respond.

But, we did of course, respond. My email was detailed and repeated what we in the group had been saying for over 9 months. It is copied and reprinted for you at the end of this post. It is my hope that Molly will do the honorable and professional thing and attach my comments as well as all the other comments sent to her by our work group members, to the packet she gives to the Food Safety Advisory Committee  which meets TODAY. .

From there it will go to their  other department offices (Office of Director, Legal, Office of Health Protection, Communicable Disease Section, and Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies) to draft the rulemaking for the sale and distribution of raw milk in Illinois.  That draft will be sent to Legal for approval through the Director to the Governor’s Office.  The goal remains to place the rulemaking on the March 2014 State Board of Health agenda for approval to go to the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (which will include two 45-day public comment periods). 

Obviously all the work we've done the last few months is just the beginning. We have so much more to do which I'll be asking your help with very soon. Please follow this link to see the to see the excellent coverage done by Tom Kocal of The Prairie Advocate News. No one investigative reporter has covered this raw milk issue in Illinois with the detailed, well researched facts the way he has.

The following is my response to the Illinois Department of Public Health regarding the proposed rules being sent up the channels after Molly ended our Dairy Work Group

Dear Molly, Steve , members of the Food Safety Advisory Committee, members of the legal department of The Illinois Department of Public Health as well as members of The Illinois State Board of Health,
                As per Molly Lambs email request of November 21, and as a member of the Dairy Work Group since February 2013, I have compiled my comments related to the draft summary of comprehensive recommendations (which will then serve as a framework to draft the rulemaking for raw milk sales in Illinois.)  None of my comments are new and were stated many times at several of the past Dairy Work Group Meetings.
Please take the time to read and seriously consider each of my concerns keeping in mind these crucial points of fact:
1.       Since 1999 there has not been a single outbreak in which it was verified that the illness was caused by an Illinois Raw Milk Producer* The CDC itself reports From 1998 through 2011, there were 148 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products that were reported to them.  This means approximately 11 outbreaks per year in all 50 states combined. The Dairy Work Group only briefly evaluated Raw Milk related illnesses in Illinois but statistics have proven the numbers to be very low.
2.       For over 30 years small farmers in Illinois have been safely and successfully producing and selling raw milk under the “policies” of the Illinois Department of Public Health, in the absence of any enforceable rules, thus begging the question ‘why are extensive, costly and difficult to enforce rules being drafted now?’
3.       If these proposed rules are passed as currently written, many  small farmers will be forced out of business and the barn doors of a thriving “meet your famer, buy local” rural trade will close forever.  Meeting the Grade A requirements alone will cost farmers who have never been permitted before, thousands and thousands of dollars which cannot be easily recouped with just a few cows producing raw milk for sale.
4.       In addition, the small farmers who decide to stay in business will feel forced to produce “underground” and less ethical producers will thrive recognizing the income which can be made illegally. Prohibition in the 1920’s was a huge government controlled failure. Raw milk will not disappear but will instead flow rapidly across state lines from possibly unscrupulous dealers in the back of trucks and cars, the sellers concerned more with making cash than with the distribution of a healthy, wholesome, natural product.
5.       Finally, the Dairy Work Group was disbanded and told their services were not needed BEFORE there was any discussion by the farmers and consumers regarding what Level 2 might look like. We felt strongly agreement had to be in place under Level 1 before proceeding to Level 2. That request was ignored.
I therefore am respectfully requesting all of those in our Illinois Department of Public Health who will be involved in this decision making regarding raw milk sales, to closely review my concerns outlined below in the table. I can be reached by email opies99@gmail.com or by phone 815-419-5692
Thank you
Donna OShaughnessy
South Pork Ranch  Chatsworth, Illinois
 *This statistic comes from  Ted Beals, MS, MD, a physician and board certified pathologist, who served on the faculty of University of Michigan Medical School. He is now retired after 31 years of clinical and administrative service in the Veterans Health Administration. A pathologist with personal interest in dairy testing and safety of milk, he has been presenting testimony on dairy safety in North America for the last several years. 
 Summary of Concern regarding Recommendations from
Dairy Regulatory and Communicable Disease Representatives

Proposed rule  
Proposed Rule Language
Reason for Concern
Suggested Action
Mandatory Permit under both levels
Required for those with more than 1 cow. What about farms with 2-3 cows?
Make registration VOLUNTARY. Farmers will seek as source of pride.
#3 a
Inspection Standards
Extensive standards for farmer with just 2 cows.
Make registration Voluntary. Keep inspection simple.
# 3 b
TB and Brucellosis Free
Illinois is already free of these. Who pays for testing?
Eliminate requirement
# 3 c
Lab testing
Extensive testing for farmer with two cows Who will pay? What are the minimum levels? What is action for those above minimums?
Eliminate requirement. Let farmer assume responsibility if her chooses. Many already do.
#3 d
Not needed. State over budget now. Who will teach inspectors?
Make permit voluntary. Those who chose to be permitted can be listed on IDPH website as marketing tool for farmer.
#3 e
Herd Share, buyers club and Consumer Supported Agriculture agreements prohibited
State has no right to eliminate private agreement between consumer and farmer. State of Illinois , Governor and Lt. Governor already widely promote CSA’s verbally and in Grant Awards
Eliminate wordage.
#3 f
Advertising is legal
IDPH cannot enforce this anyway. Social Media widely used by farmers
Eliminate wordage
#3  j
Consumer product label info , date of collection, use by date, etc..
Time consuming for farmer. Not needed as milk not being sold in stores. Not required of other fresh products sold by farmer from farm
Eliminate requirement
# 3 l
Farmer education Course
Who will teach? How qualified? At what cost?
Eliminate requirement
# 3 m
Submission of total gallons sold
Why? For what Reason? Not required of farmers who sell produce at farmers markets
Eliminate Requirement
#3 n
Inspection in response to complaint…suspension of sales until testing completed
Any complaint? Consumer complains because cows fed only hay no grain?  Who reimburses farmer for lost revenue if test are negative. ?
Eliminate requirement or make it more illness specific.
#3 o
Consumer complaint shall be reported to department
Any complaint? Cost of milk too high? Who tracks? Who follows up?
Eliminate requirement or make it illness complaint specific
#3 p
Procedure for recalling product.
Recall? This milk is not in stores! Farmer already has means of notifying customers.
Reword. “Farmer demonstrates ability to notify customer …”
#3 q
One cow farm exempt
What if large family and farmer owns two cows? Even farm with 6 cows would have difficult time generating enough income to validate the expenses needed to meet these requirements as written
Do not limit number of animals. Make registration and following permit voluntary.
#3 r
Allowable pet consumption
Farmer does not need states permission to feed milk to pets
#3 s
No re-sale or re-distribution
What about informal milk clubs where individuals take turns picking up milk for others? These are private agreements
Eliminate “re-distribution” wordage
#3 t
Consumers may make milk products …from raw milk…but shall not sell or distribute these products.
What if I make yogurt and give to my friends for Christmas? Exemptions exist for many other farm produce such as poultry, organic products, eggs.
Provide exemption (with application to state like with poultry) such as “farmer may produce and sell up to 500 containers of yogurt per month”
#4 d
Only fluid, raw milk shall be distributed
See above comments for exemptions
See above comments but since Level 2 requires more testing etc… limits for butter, cheese yogurt should be higher.
Recommendations From Dairy Industry or Associations Level 1 and 2
Inspection, sanitation, equipment, quality standards and labels in accordance with the FDA Pasteurized Milk Ordinance
The original “goal” of our group as per Mollys repeated statements were to make the standards for small raw milk farmers “simple” and easy to meet. The Grade A PMO is currently 9 pages long and comprised of 19 detailed statutes which for the small farmer (two cows or more?!?!) are neither cost effective or needed let alone “simple”
Eliminate the requirement for Level 1 farms


  1. Tyrannical, narcissistic, pompous civil servants with nothing better to do than to try and control what everyone eats/drinks......and we're paying for their bloated and totally unnecessary salaries.

  2. Well worded email to them. I'm sure some segments found you gritting your teeth, but the intent was clear and to the point and very well presented. Good on ya'!
    Thanks for your hard work on this up to the point they decided to completely disregard your expertise on the matter. You'll be back!

    1. It will take more than a "dismissal " to hush me up on this topic. The ability to raise and sell and market a healthy farm raised product should not be so very difficult. With our own Illinois governor is spouting off about how much he respects the small farmer, how important CSA's and Farmers Markets are while his staff at IDPH do all they can to knock us over...it's indeed hard to trust anyone in our states "leadership"

  3. I imagine it's hard not to feel like all your hard work was for naught. Obviously it wasn't, but it's difficult to have fools in leadership positions.

    1. You know Leigh, I really do not feel that way. In the last 9 moths we've been able to educate thousands in our state about this issue. And because we've held IDPH's feet to the fire they know they are being watched. Truly we have just begun to fight !

    2. Donna, that's what I meant by "Obviously it wasn't" meaning obviously it wasn't for naught. I think it is definitely a worthy battle. I apologize for not expressing that better.

      Anyway, I wanted to invite you to come check out my blog for why I'm so excited! Plus, perhaps I can entice you to enter my book giveaway. :)

  4. Bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy. They say it's like riding a bike; if you stop peddling, you fall off!

    1. They all could do with a good fall...knock some sense into them

  5. Donna, i have to hope that some of those you've educated in the past year will stand with you and do what they can to rattle the cages.

    Would sending the governer a copy of what you've written help in any way?

    1. Great idea Megan! We do have plans for our next step and will be asking for lots of help from our flowers, consumers other farmers. We are far from quitting this fight!