(Editor’s Note: It seems almost comical to talk about the fact that the FDA wants to make it illegal- and can- for people to buy and consume raw milk. And yet, it’s happening.)
It seems the FDA has found the handle they’ve been desperate for. And now they’re knocking out whole groups of raw milk farmers in one fell swoop.
- Ontario raw milk farmer convicted and sentenced for protecting private property and farm owners’ rights
This is serious… this is currently happening all over our nation. Many farmers have only a few weeks to comply. Take a look at the letter we received recently from Trickling Springs Creamery:
This issue is probably too complicated to explain concisely. But let me try.
It’s Driven by FEAR
In the words of a PA dairy official (who will remain unnamed for his own good), “The FDA has been trying for years to shut down raw milk and they have not been able to. But now they have come up with this plan. And it’s working! The FDA is very effectively using fear of risk to threaten and force the milk co-ops to do their dirty work for them.”
Here is the way it works. A high percentage of permitted raw milk farms across the nation jug and sell raw milk to their local customers and they love it. In fact, raw direct sales is usually their first love… They would love to sell all of their milk as raw milk.
But since they don’t have enough raw milk customers to keep their farm going financially, they often sell 75% or greater of their milk to a milk marketing co-op. The co-op pays them a much lower price, of course, since they are picking it up bulk in a milk tanker truck and doing the work of bottling and distributing the milk to grocery stores, but it is better than no market at all.
Up to this point, most of the co-ops have been at least a little understanding, and put up with raw milk farmers selling some of their milk as raw. But now the FDA seems to have set out to change that.
The FDA is scaring the willies out of the co-op people by enforcing (in an extremely detailed and unbendable way) an obscure antibiotic testing requirement that has been on the books all along…
The co-ops’ fear is not that the raw milk farmers would fail the antibiotic test… Most of us are organic and do not even use antibiotics period.
Rather, the co-ops are afraid that if a raw milk farmer would not fill out the complex FDA required paperwork correctly when he makes a batch of raw cheese or bottles a few jugs of raw milk that his mistake would jeopardize all the rest of the farmers who make up the BTU (Bulk Tank Unit) of the milk co-op.
And the Fear is Well Grounded
The FDA has made it very clear that they would do just that. They would shut down and penalize 100s of farms if there is even one missed entry in a whole ream of paperwork from even one small farmer in the group.
Of course, as you can imagine, this threat throws the co-ops’ legal counsel, insurance providers, bankers and even the farmers into a dizzy panic of fear. As you can see by the TSC letter to us, they feel they have no recourse but to demand that any farmer who sells to them must promise to sell 100% of the farm’s milk to them and agree to NEVER hold back ANY for raw milk sales or cheese.
Most raw milk farmers have no choice. As much as they love to sell raw milk… their family farm cannot remain financially viable without sales to the co-op. I have talked to many of these farmers. They sadly will need to discontinue raw milk sales in the next few months.
The only raw milk farmers who will survive this are those who did not have any co-op relationships in the first place or those whose raw milk percentage was so great that the loss of the co-op sales will be small enough that they will be able to reinvent themselves and survive without the co-op.
But The Family Cow will Survive
Let me be clear that The Family Cow will survive this. We would not have survived if this would have happened 7-8 years ago but (praise the LORD and thanks to you, our loyal tribe of supporters!) at this point our sales to Trickling Spring Creamery were a small enough portion of our total sales that we will be able to survive.
It’s not going to be easy. As I write, we are in the frantic process of buying $5,000 of additional FDA required lab testing equipment, something over $100,000 in other dairy processing equipment, (think cream, butter, yogurt, etc that TSC used to do for us) and then we will need to spend an additional $10,000 per year every year going forward running tests for antibiotics 3 to 5 times per week at the government’s mandate even though we have not used antibiotics on our organic farm for over 10 years (my emphasis)! We even have a government agency and certification called USDA Organic to verify that we have not and do not use antibiotics!
Folks… I couldn’t even make these things up. No one would believe me!
So anyway, this is just to prepare you for what may be ahead. Those of you who buy from us will be ok. And hopefully, if you do source your milk from one of the many other wonderful raw milk farmers across our nation, your farmer will survive too as a raw milk farmer. But I do know that some will not, and that is too sad.
Now is the TIME to support your raw milk farmer!
If you do know of a raw milk farmer near you who is on the edge trying to decide if he can swing his raw milk dream without his old co-op sales… now is the time to solidly get behind him and give him the hand that he and his family need to make it over the top. Talk to them about it. They may be embarrassed to bring up the subject lest they be seen as a failure. Assure them that you need them and you’ll be there for them. Together we can stand.
I know that we could never survive without our supporters. I can only hope and pray that all my other hard working, wonderful raw milk farmer friends and acquaintances in our nation could experience the same.
Blessings as always… and this time especially… lots of heartfelt thankfulness for each of you!
Sincerely, your farmers,
~ Edwin and Dawn Shank and Family
*This information was provided via an email sent to us from YourFamilyFarmer.com