The freedom to buy and sell raw milk
The August 3, 2011, shakedown of the Rawesome food cooperative in Venice, California, in spite of the tragic outcome, has produced one positive result. The ruthless raid on the part of miscellaneous government agencies has sparked a wave of unprecedented discord over the question, How can government dictate what we choose to eat when we each have unique standards for good nutrition?
This federalista blitzkrieg came at a time when raw milk alarmism had reached an all-time high. The folks who wish to banish raw milk can't leave the issue alone, and instead they have ramped up a cacophonous crusade against one of nature's glories. Day after day, articles and news bits appear in the mainstream media, full of fear mongering and panic-producing propaganda in regard to the safety of raw milk.
A July 2011 article on Dairyherd.com has some interesting survey results on comparative raw-milk regulations on a state-by-state basis. To summarize, 30 states allow consumers to transact with raw-milk producers while 20 states prohibit that act of freedom. And don't forget that federal laws prevent the sale of any raw milk over state lines. The federal government's response to the good white stuff moving over state lines is to send in armed soldiers in full battle gear to seize and destroy.
Thirteen mini-regimes across the United States allow the sale of raw milk on the farm where it was produced, while four of those thirteen allow only "incidental occurrences," with that being defined as "occasional sales, not as a regular course of business; no advertising." Surely, the feds can interpret "occasional" and "regular" and "advertising" in a whole host of capricious ways. After all, it is the use of arbitrary laws with a host of potential interpretations that enables the feds to conduct their criminal operations that consist of seizing product and regulating small producers out of business.
Four of those 13 states only allow raw goat milk while Kentucky and Rhode Island — now get this — require a prescription from a physician! Of course, you can interpret that to mean raw milk must be medicinal (ask moms who remedy their child's allergies with raw milk), but then again, there's no such thing as a Big Milk Pharma that exists as a corporate arm of the state to keep its products available for the masses. Lastly, 11 states allow raw milk to be sold in retail stores outside of the farm.
Several of the states that allow the sale of raw milk for human consumption have various twists and turns in their laws that make it very difficult to get the milk from the farm to the consumer. This essentially limits, or in some cases prevents, the sale of the product. However, imaginative entrepreneurs whose businesses are stifled by the government's despotic decrees have conceived the idea of herd shares, and this allows folks to jump through aboveboard hoops to buy a "piece" of a herd and get their raw milk. Though this is a costly administrative burden for both buyer and seller, any time that people can conjure up visionary ways to skirt the laws of the regime, freedom has taken a small step forward.
It is important to note that Rawesome was a private, voluntary cooperative of consenting members who took responsibility for any potential risks. Rawesome members even signed waivers before becoming a food-club member. With all of the agencies involved (USDA, FDA, LA County Sheriff, CDC) over a period of a year, this jihad came at great expense to taxpayers. The LA Weekly described it this way
The official word from the DA's office is that Stewart, Palmer & Bloch were arrested on criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese, yogurt and kefir. The arrests are the result of a yearlong sting. The 13-count complaint alleges that an undercover agent received goat milk, stored in a cooler in the back of Healthy Family Farms van, in the parking lot of a grocery store. While it's legal to manufacture and sell unpasteurized dairy products in California, licenses and permits are required. Rawesome may have violated regulations by selling raw dairy products to non-members.
Here is a link to the 21-page complaint.Download PDF Among the many charges against owner James Stewart is one that immediately stood out: entering into private leasing arrangements with consumers. This charge is still fuzzy, and I am sure the feds can produce a whole book of crimes.
In a recent edition of the Atlantic, an article was published that does a solid job of covering the Rawesome food-club raid and its aftermath. The Atlantic writer, Ari LeVaux, compares the Rawesome raid by federal and local agencies to the contamination of 36 million pounds of Cargill ground turkey (one tally is 77 known ill people, 1 dead). Rawesome was raided, trashed, and shut down, and meanwhile, Cargill executives were analyzing the costs of a recall vs. the potential for negative publicity from the tainted meat so they could voluntarily decide whether or not to recall the product.
LeVaux went on to say that food freedom in America is vanishing. A quote from the end of the article states the following: "This is the state of food freedom in America today: It's being sacrificed in the name of food safety." But this is not about safety. These raids that are hostile to food choice are about
* seizing power, which benefits federal and local governments and provides justification for their continued growth through the looting of taxpayers;
* eliminating the competition for the rent-seeking corporate state, meaning the big business–big government alliance;
* displaying the omnipotent power of the enforcement state (militarized police and federal/state agencies); and
* affirming rejection of any individual's right to self-ownership, and thus making the case that we are subjects to be ruled, including our behaviors and personal lifestyle choices.
The apostles of safety — assorted lawyers, corporate interests, meddlesome consumers, and other misguided safety advocates — have joined the government's campaign against raw milk to promote their own special interests and opinions. There is no tyranny of good intentions here.
Alcohol Myths Persist Beyond Prohibition
In a recent article for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, I make the case that many elements of Prohibition did not fade away after the repeal of the 18th Amendment. In his October 13 opinion piece for The Detroit News, former police chief Jerry Oliver proves my point by digging up an old alcohol myth — one that was used to force Prohibition on the nation. In short, Mr. Oliver expresses the belief that producers of alcohol only seek to have customers consume as much alcohol as possible, thereby making it necessary for the government to intervene in the name of “moderation.”
Historically, it was unscrupulous alcohol producers selling directly to consumers or in cahoots with bars to sell only their products, sometimes at artificially low prices, that fostered an environment for abusive alcohol consumption. It was these excesses that helped trigger the Prohibition backlash.
While Chief Jerry Oliver is correct that Prohibition was a backlash against Americans’ increasing alcohol use (or at least the perception of increasing use) there is no evidence that the system of direct sales or “unscrupulous” producers were the cause of increased consumption. His claim that “tied houses” (saloons owned or operated by alcohol producers) caused people to drink more is the same old myth used by the Temperance movement to push Prohibition on the country. However, we now have a large body of historical evidence that seems to debunk this presumption. Using cirrhosis of the liver as a proxy, historians have found that drinking sharply decreased in the decade preceding Prohibition — even though tied houses still abounded. While incidences of cirrhosis declined further at the start of Prohibition, they rose again toward its end.
This myth of “unscrupulous” producers has been used to maintain the mandatory three-tier system that forces alcohol producers, like brewers, to rely on a middlemen — wholesalers — to get their products into bars, restaurants, and stores. The only real reason not to shift to a voluntary system is to protect the profits of middlemen, who wield considerable political power. A voluntary distribution system would allow small producers to skip the middleman and cut costs, resulting in lower prices for consumers.