Glorious Day, Frustrating Issue

November 8, 2009

st brigid's

This whole weekend has been spectacular weather – mid sixties and glowingly sunny with a good breeze for interest.  I took advantage of the weather and my relative lack of planned activities to go out and visit my local dairy farm.

I met the couple who operate the dairy side of the farm and got a tour of the operation which was almost to bucolically picturesque for reality.  We hopped a simple rope gate and stood next to the cows as I heard all about their extra stomachs and ruminant daily schedule.  They took a mild interest in our presence and seemed inclined to meander over to us but reluctant to be patted on the nose – which was all I dared attempt.  Then we called them all over to us and Gabe was able to rattle off the names of all the ones in the inner circle.  The picture above isn’t mine – I was too absorbed to take snaps but it is of the self-same cows, taken from their own website.

The reason I’m reluctant to include too many specifics about my lovely farm and the raw milk I may or may not be obtaining from it is all the hassling that small farms in this area have been getting lately from the state.  In fact I was at a meeting on the topic just this Friday.  I attended a hearing with Dan Kapanke in support of the raw milk issue.  Ridiculous as it may sound, here in the Dairy State, its not legal for farmers to sell milk directly to customers from their farms.  Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t – the statues are frustratingly vague.  But whatever the intention of the law may have been its being prosecuted at the level of persecution by the state regulatory agency DATCAP.  In fact there is currently a law making its way through the state legislature to make sure that the sale of raw milk off farm is (once again) legal (as it is in 28 other states) but even as its being debated, DATCP is issuing cease and desist letters to small farmers throughout the region and threatening them with legal action.

The official story is: raw milk is dangerous and could kill you.  But here’s the thing.  Its not too dangerous for the farmers to drink it.  And its not even too dangerous for a practice called “incedental sales” – where people drop by the farm occasionally and pick up a gallon of fresh milk for cash.  It only becomes magically dangerous when its a regular commodity.  Here’s the way I see it.  Milk straight from the farmer is so hard to get.  A consumer has to do a lot of research, take a lot of special effort and then pay extra money to get it.  No one is doing this accidentally or even lightly.  So where does DATCP get off persecuting these poor farmers, just trying to make ends meet in a crap economy and in a world where farms are going under left and right anyway.  Its just crazy.

So here’s the deal: DATCP is a government agency and it gets is paycheck from we the people.  They are obviously getting pressure from someone to go after the raw milk producers.  I can’t stop that.  But we can make sure that they are also getting the other side of the story.  I may not agree with everything Dan Kapanke says (he is, after all a Republican) but he advised the meeting on Friday that the best way to make a change is to get in touch with your representative … regularly.  Call or email and say what you think.  Then do it again … every week.  Make your opinion known and get other people to do the same.  So I’ve marked my calendar with a regularly scheduled phone call.  You might do the same, friends and loved ones.  Lets stick up for the little guy.  Start by giving the Governor’s office a jingle at (608) 266-1212.  The first time I called it took me four minutes.  Its easy.  Lets keep the dairy in the dairy state, shall we?

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