Our constitutional right to liberty is systematically being attacked by government agencies flanked by anti-competitive forces in the food industry.
Nowhere is this more obvious than on the raw milk issue. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed SB201, a bill to preserve consumers' rights to access farm fresh milk while guaranteeing its safety.
The governor, who likely consumed raw dairy in his rise to stardom as a body builder, thwarted the freedoms of the over 40,000 raw milk devotees in his state. He ignored the will of the people in favor of the milk processors and the government regulators bent on crushing the raw dairy producers in their state - two of which are the most successful in the nation.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture, whose officials repeatedly refused to appear at hearings on the legislation, pushed The Terminator's pen on a bill that received populist support and nearly unanimous approval by both houses of the legislature.
Similar backroom politics killed the Farm Fresh Milk Act in Maryland last year, which would have reinvigorated struggling small dairy farms by recognizing their right to sell milk direct to consumers at the farm gate. Hundreds of Maryland families participated in lobbying efforts in support of the bill, and yet it was killed in committee (by a very close vote) because of the bureaucrats' dire warnings of an imminent threat to public health.
In Pennsylvania, an aggressive anti-raw milk stance has created a hostile atmosphere for over 100 family farms. Pennsylvania raw milk farms practice humane animal husbandry and consequently offer a superior product to thousands of consumers, many of whom consume raw milk for its healing qualities.
Bill Chirdon, the director of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's (PDA) Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services, is spearheading a pathogen witch hunt that appears to be aimed at chilling consumer demand for raw dairy.
Through stepped up inspection schedules and a flurry of negative press releases warning of pathogens in raw milk in 2008, Chirdon has managed to damage farmer's livelihoods, thus raising the ire of consumers and farmers alike. Taking a guilty until proven innocent attitude toward one dairy farmer in a recent case, he even issued a press release pinning blame for several illnesses on the dairy, prior to the return of official test results.
When the test results came back negative, he proceeded to withhold the release of the results to the media. At the same time, he disseminated another press release, which claimed a pathogen was found in an opened milk container from a sick household.
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund board member, Ted Beals, M.D., a pathologist and former laboratory chief says that the testing of an opened container, especially from a sick household, is an unacceptable test. An opened container may be cross-contaminated, and this is even more likely to happen in a home where there is illness. Releasing these unorthodox test results to the media totally eclipsed the PDA's subsequent announcement that the official test results for pathogens came back negative. The dairy had been exonerated, yet the public's perception remained that it was risky to buy raw milk.
Consumer choice and the survival of family farms, particularly those who practice traditional and sustainable farming methods, are under siege by government policies informed by institutional bias against unprocessed milk.
Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation www.westonaprice.org and the nation's leading champion of raw dairy for its nutritional benefits, www.realmilk.com has a dire warning of her own. "The right to produce and consume raw dairy is vital to the health of the family farm and our citizens. The future of sustainable agriculture and the health of our nation depend on a new paradigm that respects the essential liberties of farmers and consumers."
Bureaucrats and Big Business with wanton disregard for our freedoms, may stir up such resistance that they end up stimulating demand for raw dairy, rather than curbing sales. Their campaign of oppression may be just what we need to bring that new paradigm about.
Kimberly Hartke is a raw dairy consumer in Virginia. Virginia outlawed retail and farm sales of raw milk, so her family had to buy a share of a cow in order to have access to farm fresh milk. She is now the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, which suggests raw dairy from pasture-raised cows can heal many health problems. Visit her blog: www.hartkeonline.blogspot.com.