David E. Gumpert has this fast-breaking story on his “The Complete Patient” blog — an excerpt:
“In advance of a hearing May 10 on the proposed regulation, a Massachusetts legislator friendly with the MDAR commissioner, Scott Soares, set up a meeting last Monday for the regulator to discuss with a few consumers his reasons for going after the buying clubs.
Surprise–15 consumers and farmers showed up for the meeting, and started peppering the startled Soares with questions about why he was taking an action that will inevitably reduce consumers’ access to raw milk, and quite possibly put at least a few of the more than twenty dairy farms selling raw milk out of business.
These 15 consumers weren’t just a few people off the street. They included some prominent local citizens who know how the system works—a local lawyer, a public health professional, the head of a nonprofit organization, and a high-ranking federal regulator. The latter, Hugh Kaufman, was Chief Investigator with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ombudsman Office, among other high-level positions over a forty-year period.
Kaufman put Soares on the spot during the Monday meeting when Soares said at one point that there was as much passion from anti-raw-milk people as from pro-raw-milk people. Who were these anti-raw-milk people, Kaufman inquired.
“He said that large dairy producers had communicated to him,” recalls Kaufman. “I asked him who they were. He said he couldn’t tell me.”
But Kaufman says Soares talked about concerns the dairy representatives have “that if something goes wrong with raw milk, it will hurt all the dairies.” (This is a familiar refrain by the conventional dairy industry that has no basis, since public health and health regulators are quick in any suspected illness from raw milk to alert consumers, in shrill terms, to the distinction between raw and pasteurized milk.)
That led Kaufman to inquire whether Soares had written any of this down. Soares said he hadn’t.
Kaufman maintains that when government officials have conversations with industry representatives while new regulations are being considered, the officials are supposed to open a docket—make a written record of what happened and when.
I should say at this point that four other people who were at the meeting with Soares have confirmed Kaufman’s account of what occurred. Moreover, I tried via phone and email to obtain comment from Soares. His publicity official emailed me Thursday asking what I wanted to inquire about. I wrote her back that I wanted his version about what was said at the Monday meeting about his contacts with dairy officials. I didn’t receive a response.
Kaufman thinks he understands the problem: “Soares couldn’t handle 15 knowledgeable people. In the process, he opened up a pandora’s box. Now his legal problem is that he is hiding from the public the names of the large business entities, that he is meeting with, who are pushing him to restrain trade. As well as hiding from the general public, the fact that he’s being pushed by these business entities in the first place. Not making a public record of these ex-parte discussions with the big dairies lobbying him to harm their competitors, during an Official Government Rulemaking, is NOT legit.”…”