My Testimony Before the Dairy Anti-Trust Workshop
by Lisa Jacobson, Guest Blogger
I attended and spoke at the Dairy Anti-Trust Workshop on Friday June 26, 2010. The day started with opening remarks and round table discussion among top officials: Governor Jim Doyle (raw milk vetoer, boo), US Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, USDA Secretary Vilsack, US Dept of Justice Asst. Attny General Christine Varney, WI Dept of AG Secretary Nilsestuen, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Dept. of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder was supposed to be there but had a funeral to attend.
Following them were 4 different panelist discussions combined with two separate, hour long opportunities for public testimony, one in the middle of the day and one at the end. I spoke at the end.
The panelist discussions were:
Farmer Presentation of Issues
Trends in the Dairy Industry
There was some fairly candid discussions from the farmers and also by Varney and Vilsak at the beginning. Several comments about the critical lack of farmers in the US population, a national security issue. Varney made very clear DOJ would pursue criminal prosecution for anti-trust violations such as the case against Dean Foods. Some of the panels were not quite as interesting but nevertheless, equally important.
I had heard that many (DFA) farmers were afraid to be there and give testimony because they could jeopardize their connection to a processor/milk pick up. I also noticed at the workshop there was a group of DFA farmers, who gave positive testimony and glowing remarks about the DFA cooperative. I just couldn’t help but wonder if this group really represented a smaller contingent, purposefully recruited for this event, to praise DFA and truly not representative of a larger percentage who fear to speak out.
As this system is definitely broken, it is really suspicious that there were barely any angry farmers speaking out at this event.
I spoke toward the very end.
My name is Lisa Jacobson from Milwaukee Wisconsin.
I am a consumer of unpasteurized Milk and support my small dairy farmer.
I actually am a criminal in Wisconsin because of the fact that I have aided and abetted in an illegal practice by purchasing unpasteurized Milk from a farmer.
My hope is that this public meeting will be instrumental in ending or reversing the statewide and federal interference of farms that provide health conscious citizens with pure, wholesome and healthy unpasteurized milk.
It appears very BLATANT that prohibiting farm to consumers unpasteurized milk sales is an illegal and anti competitive practice by regulators and Big Dairy industry, by only allowing dairy processing plants to obtain raw milk and using pasteurization as the key to safety and control. If using this weak defense, then I would argue that consumers could also pasteurize or heat milk to 165º for 15 seconds.
Big dairy, regulators and lobbyists use mainstream media to spread smear campaigns that say ALL unpasteurized milk unsafe. Yes, factory farm raw milk from cows who suffer from mastitis, tails cut off for efficiency and can’t swat flies, never allowed to live outside and graze naturally as ruminants but instead fed unnatural grain based diets infused with antibiotic and growth hormones, wallowing in their own feces on concrete, bedded on recycled manure, living in factory farms or CAFO’s with manure lagoons replacing pastures, polluting the air with hydrogen sulfide and ammonia for surrounding neighbors and communities, and whose milk is then co-mingled into silo milk and shipped across the country, yes, this raw milk is probably is UNSAFE.
If pasteurization, by conventional dairy industry with this type of frightening standards and logic, is the answer to ‘sanitizing’ milk, then I do not want any industrial dairy products or want to feed it to my children.
All I want and hope for is safe healthy wholesome unprocessed milk directly from healthy cows grazing on healthy pasture from my small farmer who uses sustainable agricultural practices, and not be considered a criminal.
To rephrase a quote from Joel Salatin of Polyface farms Virginia, ‘My wish is that the Consumer group advocating legal pure unpasteurized Milk grows to be at least as big and powerful as the National Rifle Association’.
Three months ago the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly held a public hearing to address Bill SB434/AB628, proposing the legalization of raw milk and to listen to their constituents. Over 650 people made their way to the hearing in Eau Claire Wisconsin, and signed up in favor of legalizing unpasteurized milk. Only 22 persons signed up opposing the bill, and the majority of those were representatives and regulators from the Dairy Industry. The bill passed in both the Senate (25-8) and the Assembly (60-35), but Dairy Industry lobbyists got a hold of Governor Doyle and changed his decision to cast a veto. He originally indicated he would sign the bill.
Following Up After The Hearing
After the hearing, I sent a letter to Mr. Dinning of the Department of Justice and Senator Feingold (thanking Feingold for staying until the end to listen to all the public comments). In the letter, I raised my concerns about the absence of angry farmers:
“Is there a way to reach out to the coop farmers who can’t use their voice publicly, but can do so anonymously or some other way? And also, some of the farmers I had spoken to, were not even aware of this event. How do you reach out to these hard working farmers who might not be connected to this info? I believe this is critical.”
I was the only one to raise the raw milk issue at the hearing. It was really hard to do, but I spoke out and received applause but also in response had two farmers aggressively speak against my position afterward, and one actually turned around and spoke angrily and directly towards me the whole time instead of to the front panel.
Lisa Jacobson bio (in her own words): Here in Milwaukee, I live in a 110 year old Victorian home and tend to my flower and vegetable garden where I love to hang out with my Great Dane & kitty. It’s my oasis in the city. I am a graduate in Fashion Design from Mount Mary College and worked as a creative apparel designer for over 20 years.
My mother & I sought out fresh, unpasteurized milk for the health benefits and have been drinking milk for the last 2 or so years without incident. We’ve always been a healthy family, thanks to the wisdom of mom. Saturday mornings we have our ritual to go to the farm, pick up our milk, shop the wonderful little store, and see all the friends at the farm.
In January 2010, the farmer was told he couldn’t sell the milk. He had to shut it down or else risk losing his retail license for the store. I was so disappointed in our state. I just couldn’t believe it, not allow us to have milk??
I have since attended the raw milk bill public hearings in Eau Claire (here is my letter to the bill sponsors) and the raw milk symposium. I regularly attend the Wisconsin raw milk working group meetings.
My family instilled in me a sense of individual responsibility as citizens and civic duty, striving to make our world a better place. So I feel obliged to take a stand on this issue.
Note from Kimberly: If you are a dairy farmer and were afraid to attend and speak publicly, here are the email addresses for Dinning and Feingold, please take the time to write your own letter and let them know you are giving your witness in strict confidence to them:
senator at feingold.senate.gov
Samuel.Dinning at usdoj.gov
Thanks, Lisa for carrying the torch for all the citizens who are being denied their rights to healthy food of their free choice. You are setting a wonderful example of citizen activism. We are grateful!