The public / private divide on raw milk and nutrient-dense food availability

The latest from David E. Gumpert on his “The Complete Patient” blog:

“….So I have tried to answer the question, what’s goin’ on? Here are a few things I see goin’ on:

* There’s a huge, and expanding, gulf between the raw milk “public sector” and its “private sector.” Or maybe I should say, between publicly sold food, and privately sold food in general. A big part of McAfee’s problems (and of the Raw Milk Institute) has been an inability to appreciate the different landscapes, and mindsets, of the two arenas. It may simply be that they are incompatible, as Violet Willis suggests, and as Dave Milano has suggested in the past. People who become accustomed to obtaining their food privately, via food clubs or herdshares or CSAs, come to have different priorities and values than those who are mostly buying their raw milk in retail stores. There’s a bigger emphasis on cooperation and community in such private initiatives, run as they are invariably by volunteers working together with farmers.

* There are lots of new people being drawn to nutrient-dense foods. These include true consumer types, like Kristen Papec. They may well have unrealistic expectations about what is and isn’t a sanitary farm, or to what extent outsourcing might be appropriate. That’s not meant as a criticism. I’ve been writing about farming matters for a few years now, and still consider myself a novice about much that goes on in making a farm work for both farmer and customer. There are few sources of guidance; the public health community makes little or no effort to help educate the hordes of newbies heading out to the farms.

* There remains a huge amount of ignorance about what it takes to successfully produce nutrient-dense food. The discussion following my November 30 post, and Wayne Craig’s surprise, but on-target assertion that, yes, it can well cost $8 a gallon to produce milk, was revealing. Because he’s talking about producing a special quality of milk, artisinal quality, if you will. Our culture’s focus on price, price, price makes it nearly impossible for many people to ever fully appreciate that reality of high costs, and concurrent high prices–all in exchange for a product that is impossible to obtain in grocery stores.

* There is a great deal of misunderstanding about private food arrangements, and for good reason–they’re new to most of us, including farmers. A few people here have wondered about the differences between herdshare arrangements and leasing of animals, for example. Milky Way betrays naivete about the federal prohibition on taking milk across state lines, suggesting in the quote at the start of this post that it’s fine, so long as you don’t get money for it. She/he clearly doesn’t have an understanding of the “agent” concept, whereby consumers pay a farmer, and then designate an “agent” to pick up and deliver their milk. It’s that agent arrangement, and the government’s desire to try to make that arrangement (which is common in many industries, and includes sending a neighbor to the drug store to pick up a painkiller you’ve been prescribed because you are flat on your back) as the equivalent of commerce, that is being tested by the Raw Milk Freedom Riders on Thursday in Wisconsin and Illinois.

Around all these issues, there is a growing amount of disagreement and dissension, farmer versus farmer, farmer versus consumer, and consumer versus consumer. Mix in aggressive regulators trying to scare people off from the private realm, and trying their best to divide the food rights movement and, well, you get an idea of what’s goin’ on. …”

Get the full story on The Complete Patient blog.


Filed under News

3 responses to “The public / private divide on raw milk and nutrient-dense food availability

  1. aed939

    Some definitions: private sector milk is milk that is consumed by the owner(s) of the cow(s) that produced the milk. The supply chain, as defined by the number of changes in ownership of the milk, is zero. Two important aspects of private milk: the FDA and state public health agencies have no jurisdiction over private foods, and transportation across state lines of private milk does not cause the milk to become interstate commerce, or commerce at all because it is never sold. Now the milk may change hands if a buyer’s agent retrieves the milk for several buyers, but do not confuse a change in possession with a change in ownership.

    Public sector milk is milk that is sold in a public market–that is, the seller puts the milk up for sale to all comers, and a buyer buys the milk. At that point, the supply chain length is one (or greater, if the milk is resold). States have the authority to regulate or even prohibit public sector milk. Also the FDA prohibits interstate commerce of raw milk. Note that the transportation of the milk across state lines does not cause public milk to be interstate commerce unless it is subsequently sold or resold or put up for sale. In other words, a farmer in Pennsylvania cannot set up to sell his milk at a farm stand in Maryland. However, a consumer residing in Maryland may drive to Pennsylvania, buy milk, and then bring it home. Organized buying clubs may go to Pennsylvania and buy milk on behalf of several buyers, and then bring it home to the buyers. This is legal as long as the runner is not reselling the milk in Maryland.

    That’s what the law says–although this is not very settled in case law. Consequently, the FDA has harassed buying clubs by overextending their authority. It appears that the FDA has been advised by their internal legal counsel that they are not in their rights, as evidenced by their lack of action at the first Freedom Riders event. We’ll see what happens in Illinois.

  2. Raoul

    Brilliant article Mr. Gumpert. There is indeed a public /private divide and also a public/corporate / government divide and also still an urban /rural divide. We must keep building honest networks and holding dialog among all interest groups and stakeholders and until we are finally able to build this new societal fabric that incorporates food security and well-being in our modern society for the benefit of future generations of human beings .

  3. In David Gumpert’s full article with comments, the subject of a closed herd came up. At this time I would like to thank Michael Schmidt and the Alberta Milk Board’s info in ‘The Milking Times’ on this subject (Nov.,2011). The Dairy farmers in Alberta have a program called, ‘Alberta Johne’s Disease Initiative (AJDI) Herd Status program. One of the requirements to have a good farm is to have a closed herd to help prevent this disease. There is wisdom to heed the council of elders, those with experience. If any of you
    read the Milking Times, learn from it, please don’t have negative comments
    about it. Respect is what I desire.

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