Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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Legislation Is 'Udder' Nonsense

Dairy farms should be allowed to sell raw milk straight from the cow

By Marc Guttman

Article from

Got (raw) milk? You do for now, but food safety bills have recently been introduced in Connecticut's state legislature and U.S. Congress. Both are important to our freedoms and our health.

Cows graze in a pasture last year at Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, Vt., where raw milk is sold.

This year, HB 6313, which would ban the sale of unpasteurized milk in retail stores and only allow raw milk sales at the farm where it is produced, was introduced in the state legislature.

Some drink raw milk as a source of probiotics and for other alleged health benefits. Others are interested in supporting local industry or agricultural practices. HB 6313 was proposed to protect consumers unfamiliar with retail raw milk from unknowingly ingesting a potentially unsafe product. The bill would also require extensive testing of cow milk and feces samples at the farmer's expense.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) contends that despite “Connecticut's raw milk producers (having) an excellent track record for producing clean safe milk,” the Connecticut Department of Agriculture is proposing consumer protection regulations in response to a single incident. In 2008, fourteen people became ill from E. Coli after drinking raw milk from one of the state's raw milk licensees.

Since many consumers would likely choose not to spend the additional time and expense to travel to the farms where the milk is produced, HB 6313 would have significantly injured raw milk producers. Fortunately, FTCLDF, raw milk producers, and liberty activists encouraged sympathetic legislators, particularly Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, to kill this bill in committee. Many expect it to return.

Also this year, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, introduced HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would establish the Food Safety Administration (FSA). The FSA is to establish a far-reaching and highly-burdensome regulatory national food safety program, imposing on private farm practices.

In addition to property rights infringements, many are concerned about the competitive advantage this legislation would give to large agri-producers over small farm operators. Smaller businesses will have difficulty affording regulatory compliance and may desist for fear of imprisonment and large fines for missteps.

To many of us it seems doubtless that private certifying agencies would do far better at protecting consumers from potentially dangerous or non-efficacious products than government bureaucracies. Public agencies it seems are often influenced by special interests who are well-funded and well-placed to garner unfair leverage.

Effects of over-regulation

Even assuming best intentions, we still suffer from such policies. Licensing and certification regulations create therapy-lags, escalate prices, and protect trade cartels. Encumbered smaller pharmaceutical firms and food producers disappear, thus eliminating diversity of products. Consumers find it more difficult to access nutritional foods, dietary supplements, and quality therapies.

Even if the reader prefers that government license and certify service providers and products, only the most authoritarian of us would want to forcibly lock-up people who choose to opt out.

I've not yet ingested raw cow milk, but I have friends who do regularly. Should the farmer who sells them raw milk be imprisoned? In a free society are not people free to choose for themselves whether or not to utilize non-certified products and services? Do we really want to now create a black market in agriculture products? And what of the many suffering patients who must wait years to try potential therapies currently forbidden by the FDA?

That many readers have no interest in ever drinking raw milk should not leave anyone apathetic about defending the right of adults to trade it. Too many forget that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” until that in which they delight or that which nourishes them is outlawed.

Thomas Paine warned that “those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It is beneficial to stand against its infringement on every front. The rights of farmers and their customers should be defended.

Marc Guttman is an emergency physician and vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of Connecticut. He lives in East Lyme.


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