Raw milk: a question of small farmers’ rights

The recent acquittal of Canadian dairy farmer, Michael Schmidt, last week on charges of selling raw milk stands as a huge victory for food and farm freedom advocates. Though the subject of raw milk sales seems innocuous to many, it is an issue of fundamental socio-political importance. Micheal’s story imbibes the rising populist sentiment for politically reaffirming our inalienable rights. Californians, be glad you live in a state that does not penalize you for participating in one of the most basic practices of traditional American agriculture– the sale of real, unadulterated, milk straight from the farm to consumer.

Setting aside the well-documented health and therapeutic properties of raw milk from clean, well husbanded dairies and its immaculate safety record as a food, one would be hard pressed to deny the economic importance of decriminalizing the sale of raw milk. Allowing small farmers and homesteaders to sell their fresh milk without subjugating it to the unhealthy and expensive processes of pasteurization, is imperative for local food economies to flourish, and in so doing, letting the local food movement restore the health and welfare of this nation.

California joins the ranks of 27 other states who don’t place unconstitutional restrictions on the sale of real milk for human consumption. Five states allow raw milk to be distributed for “animal consumption only”. Sir Julian Rose, founder of the Association for Unpasteurized Milk Producers and Consumers in the United Kingdom has this to say regarding the disturbing lack of education on the subject: “It’s a sad reflection on the bewitching powers of the ‘dead food is safe food’ lobby that our supermarket-obsessed culture can’t access real food any more.” These words should arouse the latent spirit of mercy and justice found in even the most jaded of common-sense political thinkers. It should also make one wonder, ‘why on earth is the sale of milk (in any form) a legal question?’ The answer is found in the tragic history of the industrialization of rural America. 

The economic lifeblood of most small, family farm operations was cut off when pasteurization laws– based on corporate-shill junk science– were passed in the United States. Surplus dairy products traditionally acted as exchangeable commodities in self-sufficient rural communities. One of the chief aims of the corporate takeover of American agriculture in the twentieth century was to stamp out any means of communal economic independence. David Rockefeller, poster child of the emerging American plutocracy, was noted as saying, “competition is a sin.”One-third of states still suffer from this oppressive attitude by making it illegal to purchase unpasteurized milk. 

Something Californians can do to help their fellow countrymen is to rally support for any and all national legislation that upholds farm sovereignty and empowers small farmers throughout the country to sell their cleanly produced dairy products to their friends and neighbors without having to resort to a black market. There is already legislation on the table to do just that. Put forward by Republican Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul, H.R. 778 works to “repeal the current ban on raw milk and raw milk products for human consumption in interstate commerce.” If this bill or any like it becomes established law, it will allow consumers in “dry” states to at least have the choice of medicating with nature’s “perfect food” and be the cornerstone in a legal structure that has no room for any anti-raw milk legislation.