PENNSYLVANIA RAW MILK ACTION ALERT
(Our apologies for the earlier version of this alert, which did not have full contact information.)
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is after raw milk again, this time suspending the permit of Trent Hendricks, who operates a state-of-the-art raw milk dairy in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. In addition, the PDA and the Pennsylvania Department of Health have issued inflammatory press releases that have greatly hurt the dairy's reputation and business. The PDA also carried out another raid on Mark Nolt's farm.
Details are given in the press release below. Now is the time to take action and express your outrage at this biased attack against raw milk in Pennsylvania. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is pursuing legal action, but Pennsylvania officials need to hear from as many outraged citizens as possible. Every day without a permit is a day closer to financial ruin for Hendricks Farm.
ACTION TO TAKE
Call, email, fax or write the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, the Governor of Pennsylvania and the chairmen of the Agriculture and Rural Affaris committees, If you live in Pennsylvania, please contact your state senator and representative.
POINTS TO MAKE
1. The raw milk permit for Hendricks Farm should be reinstated at once.
2. PDA and the Department of Health need to issue an immediate retraction, stating that there has never been any problem with Hendricks Dairy raw milk.
3. The actions of the PDA against Hendricks Dairy and Mark Nolt are contrary to PDA regulations and outside of the law.
4. Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Nolt should receive compensation from the State of Pennsylvania for lost business and product seizure.
5. Mr. William Chirdon should be replaced with an official who understands and supports the raw milk movement.
6. A congressional investigation is needed into PDA and health department raw milk policies.
For names and addresses of your state senators and representatives, go to http://www.legis.state.pa.us/index.cfm, where you can search your elected officials by zip code and county.
Ag & Rural Affairs - Senate Chairman
Hon. Michael W. Brubaker
Chairman, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Room 457 Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, PA 17120 717-787-4420 - office
717-783-3156 - fax
[email protected] (Designee: Kristin Crawford, Executive Director)
Ag & Rural Affairs - House Chairman
Hon. Michael K. Hanna
House of Representatives
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Chairman, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee
302 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2076
717-772-2999 - office
717-787-4137 - fax
[email protected] (Designee: Diane Hain, Executive Director)
Mr. Dennis C. Wolff
Secretary, Department of Agriculture
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
2301 N. Cameron St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110
[email protected] (Executive Assistant: April Orwig)
717-772-2853 - office
717-705-8402 - fax
Governor Edward G. Rendell
Governor's Executive Office
Room 225, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
717-787-5962 - office (No complaint phone calls accepted by Executive Office. Please send email, fax or letter.)
717-772-8284 - fax
PRESS RELEASE AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION Please feel free to send this press release to local media where you live and a copy to any government official you contact.
Unwarranted Raw Dairy Recalls
Put Spotlight on Hostile Regulatory Procedures
Washington, DC--Sept 17, 2008-A series of rush-to-judgment raw dairy recalls and actions against raw milk farmers around the country, has exposed inappropriate protocols used to assess the safety of raw milk and extreme bias on the part of investigators.
On September 12, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) rescinded Telford, Pennsylvania raw milk farmer Trent Hendrick's raw milk permit, based on a few recent cases of food poisoning. Without any test results showing that the Hendricks Farm milk was contaminated, the state issued a press release naming the farm and circulated warnings against the consumption of all raw milk.
Today both the state and independent tests came back negative, not only for campylobacter but for all other pathogens as well. PDA then obscured their negative test results by putting out the results of an unacceptable test of an opened container which, coming from a household where there was illness, cannot be considered a valid test. This is a clear indication that PDA is violating proper scientific protocol in order to blame this farmer.
The state based their initial decision on reports of three families that were customers of the dairy, several members of which were afflicted with intestinal pain, cramping and diarrhea. According to Hendricks, two of the families were on vacation at the time and were exposed to other possible sources of pathogens, including questionable water sources. However, investigators for the Pennsylvania health department discounted other likely vectors of disease and neglected to determine whether non-raw milk drinkers had also contracted the illness. In fact, a spokesman for Grand View Hospital in Perkasie, Pennsylvania reports that a number recent cases of campylobacter have been diagnosed in the area.
Prior to this incident, The Hendricks farm has been lauded by the PDA as being an exceptional raw dairy producer, one who operated by permit and had a superlative safety record. The farm's raw milk cheeses have won several American Cheese Society awards. Hendricks had requested that the PDA wait until test results were in before issuing the press release. The shut down of his operation and press release resulted in financial hardship and considerable negative publicity for the dairy.
"I have jumped through hoops in an attempt to meet or surpass the state requirements," said Hendricks. "Our farm has an excellent track record on test results, and we even go above and beyond by testing the milk weekly for pathogens. All of our good faith efforts and compliance didn't amount to a hill of beans. When we needed the benefit of the doubt from the state, it wasn't there. We take food safety very seriously. All we asked is that PDA have evidence before they convict us. Instead, they insisted on putting out a press release damning our product before test results were back--before they had any conclusive proof."
"Until recently, the PDA did not suspend permits or issue press releases until appropriate testing confirmed the presence of pathogens in culture tests, says Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education foundation that encourages the consumption of raw milk from pasture-fed cows. "In fact, they waited until they got two negative culture results, because pathogen testing is subject to error."
"Whenever there is an outbreak of foodborne illness, raw milk becomes the whipping boy for the disease," said Fallon. "During the recent massive outbreak of illness caused by spinach from California's Salinas Valley, authorities accused raw milk from Organic Pastures Dairy of being the source of illness. The state of California later paid compensation to the dairy, which was exonerated as a source of pathogens."
Also on September 12, the PDA carried out its third raid against Mark Nolt's farm. Nolt, a passive resister to the state permitting process, claims a constitutional right to sell the products of his farm without a permit. To date, the state has seized over $65,000 worth of product and equipment.
According to Nolt, the judge's order giving the PDA authority to seize and discard products from his farm was lifted on August 5, 2008 and the courts have denied the PDA a permanent injunction against the sale of raw milk.
"The seizure and destruction of our farm products was an unlawful action by the state," says Nolt.
PDA head of dairy safety William Chirdon has frequently stated that Nolt would be able to sell his raw milk without interference as long as he obtained a permit. "Friday's actions demonstrate that PDA has no qualms about harassing raw milk farmers who have permits," said Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. (FTCLDF) "This is why more and more raw milk farmers are choosing to operate outside the permitting system. They consider the raw milk permit a 'permit to harass.'"
In light of these two incidents, Jonas Stoltzfus, farmer and President of the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (PICFA), called for the immediate ouster of William Chirdon. "The FDA's negative statements about raw dairy have resulted in an aggressive stance against raw dairy farmers by state agencies across the nation. Persecution of Pennsylvania raw milk farmers began under Bill Chirdon's regime. His actions of September 12 demonstrate his willingness to persecute and prosecute farmers on no evidence at all," said Stoltzfus.
"We are concerned about extreme PDA bias against raw milk," says Meikle, "It is inappropriate for the state to issue warnings against the consumption of all raw milk when raw milk has helped thousands of Pennsylvania consumers overcome health problems and has a long history of safety. Last year, three people died from contaminated pasteurized milk in Massachusetts and thousands have been sickened by fresh produce. Where are the warnings against consumption of pasteurized milk and raw produce?" Meikle notes that tainted, heat-processed baby formula killed three infants and sickened over one thousand babies in China, during the week of the PDA actions against raw milk.
Fallon notes that a recall of raw cream in California highlights similar inappropriate protocols in that state. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recalled the raw cream when it tested positive for campylobacter after 12 days of highly specialized laboratory culturing. No illnesses from the raw cream were reported and CDFA admitted to a sample mix-up that sent the cream to the wrong laboratory. "Not only did the cream travel over 900 extra miles and sit for several days at the wrong laboratory before being sent to the correct laboratory, the source milk from which the cream was well under the mandated 10 coliform limit-- it was 6 coliforms, pathogen-free and campylobacter-free. CDFA officials consider this the gold standard for raw milk testing," said Fallon. "We are waiting for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign SB201, the 2008 California Fresh Raw Milk bill, into law. This legislation will eliminate the 10-coliform limit, which is very difficult for raw milk dairies to pass on a consistent basis, and mandate frequent intensive testing for pathogens like campylobacter instead.
Campylobacter is not a coliform and so it is missed by the coliform
standards currently in force.
Raw milk defenders note that coliforms are mostly beneficial bacteria, which have pro-biotic effects. "The presence of good bacteria is one reason consumers want to drink raw milk," says Fallon. "The official attitude that the only good bacteria is a dead bacteria is a discredited paradigm based on 40-year-old science."
The Weston A. Price Foundation is a 501c3 nutrition education non-profit, dedicated to fostering a return to nutrient-dense foods and traditional farming methods. The Foundation promotes the consumption of raw milk and pasture-feeding of livestock. The Weston A. Price Foundation is based in Washington DC and has 400 chapters and 10,000 members worldwide. Websites:
westonaprice.org and realmilk.com
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund provides legal defense for sustainable farms engaged in raw milk production and direct farm-to-consumer sales. Website: farmtoconsumer.org.
The Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association is a group of Sustainable Farmers and the Consumers that support them. Their mission is to help defend the rights of farmers to provide humanely raised meats and farm fresh dairy products direct to consumers who value these foodstuffs without government interference.
Kimberly Hartke, WAPF Publicist (703) 860-2711 or (703) 675-5557, [email protected]
Jonas Stoltzfus, Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association Home 717-536-3618, cell 717-275-3016 mailto:[email protected]
Maureen Diaz, Weston A. Price Chapter Leader, Pennsylvania 717-303-3832 cell 717-253-0529 mailto:[email protected]