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News

Gathering Calls for Freedom for 'Real' Milk

Submitted by Editor on Fri, 08/08/2008 - 11:00am.

Tracy Sutton
Northern Editor

Article from Lancaster Farming

LEBANON, Pa. — What do a room full of Amish dairy farmers, Ron Paul libertarians, health-conscious grandmothers from Philadelphia and one state senator have in common? They all drink raw milk.

They refer to as “real” milk and are passionate about keeping the government from interfering with it.

The “Farmers and Consumers Freedom and Liberty Seminar” took place at Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon, Pa. last Saturday and drew nearly 300 people. The all-day event, hosted by state senator Mike Folmer (R-48), was parts townhall meeting and big tent revival.

As Folmer exclaimed that this commonwealth has a department of “agriculture” — not “agribusiness” — more than a few shouted “amens” could be heard.

The purpose of the seminar was to bring together farmers, consumers, and activists to examine the benefits and safety of raw milk, brainstorm policies to expand raw milk sales, and lessen government “interference” in its regulation.

Featured speakers included Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston Price Foundation; Ted Beals, a retired pathologist; Jonas Stolzfus, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association; William Taylor Reil, an activist; Senator Mike Folmer; and Peter Kennedy, vice president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF).

William Taylor Reil, described in the program as a “constitutional scholar” but “not an attorney,” gave a discourse on “The Pennsylvania Constitution and Our Lawful Remedies.” Reil is a member of the Community Alliance for Responsible Eco-Farming (CARE) and has devoted himself to dissecting the Pennsylvania Constitution, which he believes preempts the government’s regulation of raw milk sales. He provided saddle-bound copies of the constitution for everyone in attendance.

Peter Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund addressed the organization’s work on challenging the federal ban on the interstate shipment of raw milk for human consumption, among other issues.

The FTCLDF is an offshoot of the Weston Price Foundation and was created last year to provide legal representation to farmers who sell directly to consumers off the farm and, according to its mission statement, protect farmers from government “harassment.” As reported in Lancaster Farming last week, FTCLDF is also preparing a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Agriculture over the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

Discussing pending legislation in Pennsylvania on raw milk sales was seminar host and state senator Mike Folmer.

Folmer began his remarks by stating that the checks and balances system of our government is out of whack. The purpose of the Department of Agriculture, said Folmer, was to be a “helping hand” to farmers. “It’s here to further our largest business — the growing of food.” Instead, the PDA, said Folmer, has overstepped its role.

“It’s not unconstitutional, the ability for people to make some product and let a willing consumer engage in a transaction for that product. This is the free market! That’s what makes the United States and the commonwealth great.”

Why, asked Folmer, is the government imposing itself on raw milk sales? He pointed to the recent salmonella scare with tomatoes. Does this mean, he reasoned, we should outlaw the selling of roadside tomatoes? “Should we have public inspections of all tomatoes?”

“We fight it here” on raw milk, “or we fight it on every item sold,” said Folmer.
Folmer referred to two bills that recently have been introduced in the House on expanding raw milk sales. He was not in favor of the proposed legislation because it would “put raw milk permit statutes open to inspection anytime.”

Folmer said the inspections would not be limited to the dairy, but to financial books, as well as the name and addresses of consumers.

He described these efforts as “codifying the problem.”

Folmer exhorted farmers to encourage their customers to get involved in calling and writing their representatives as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. “Let them know you want the department of agriculture to be an ally to the family farmer ... not a heavy hand.”
Folmer said he expected resistance.

“Stand strong,” he urged. “Don’t give in.”