Former Dairy Worker Sponsors Bill to Save Maryland Dairy Farms
Delegate J.B. Jennings (R-7), is a former dairy farm worker who now has a seat in the Maryland state legislature. He may be the right man, in the right place, to save his state’s embattled small dairy farms.
For the last three years, Maryland citizens have been fighting to regain the right to buy fresh milk from the producer of their choice. They seek to put Maryland farm fresh milk in their refrigerators. And their tummies.
Maryland is a state where no sales (even from the farm gate), are permitted for unprocessed milk.
It used to be that families who wished to add raw milk to their diet could contract with a farmer to board a cow, thereby securing access to farm fresh milk from their own animal (raw milk is legal to buy, have and consume in all 50 states, although some states restrict sales).
However, in 2006, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), redefined cow share programs as a sale of raw milk, effectively outlawing them. Thousands of raw dairy consumers are now buying raw milk in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, or denied access altogether.
Jennings, with his background in farming, has a very good shot of freeing Maryland farmers from these meddlesome health regulations. He has introduced a bill HB 1080, on dairy animal ownership, to restore Maryland farmers and citizens’ right to engage in contractual agreements called agistments.
Cow boarding is a legal contractual agreement known as an agistment. Boarding agreements, or agistments, enable a livestock owner to board their animal at a farm, when they do not have enough land themselves. Horses are commonly boarded this way.
In contrast to Maryland, another neighboring state, Virginia, allows consumers who want to drink farm fresh milk to invest in a share of a cow, and drink the milk from their own animal.
Serious Health Issues May Be Resolved by Raw Dairy
My husband and I own 2/26’s of a cow named Aster at Hedgebrook Farms, outside of Winchester, Virginia. Aster grazes on the green grass pastures of a 100 year old farm. No pesticides have ever been used on the grass! Everyone who tastes her milk says it is delicious. We make our own kefir, butter, cream, and even ice cream from her milk. We are very fortunate to live in a state where the agriculture department is supportive of local, small dairy farms.
Like many raw milk consumers, we were seeking to add nutrient dense, natural foods to our diet to help us with health issues. I have a painful knee condition called chondromalacia patellae or runners knee, raw milk has been an important part of my healing protocol. I have met others who use raw dairy as a nutritional aid for allergies, IBS, Crohns, bone loss, and even cancer. Visit the westonaprice.org and realmilk.com websites to learn more about nutrition and healing from disease.
America isn’t Truly Free if Her Farmers are in Bondage
Maryland small dairies are in a last gasp situation. For the past three years farmers and consumers have worked together in vain to get a raw milk bill through the state legislature. Liz Reitzig, a young mother whose children are allergic to processed milk, is the consumer spearheading this effort.
With babies in tow, Liz led hundreds of farmers and citizens to lobby state legislators in Annapolis, MD last year. The bill was killed in committee by a very narrow margin. The bill last year would have made raw milk sales legal, but only at the farm gate. Liz told me at the time that “the dire warnings of health bureaucrats thwarted the will of the people, by not allowing the bill to reach a floor vote. The fears of a few, are dictating the choices available to the many,” she said.
Citizens Want Freedom and Responsibility
Raw dairy consumers are typically highly educated, and their decision to add unprocessed milk to their diet is well researched. Speaking as one, we also are willing to take responsibility for our own dietary and health choices. Since adding raw dairy to my diet, I have had been struck twice with gastro-intestinal distress (NOT from raw dairy, mind you, but from other food/water). I haven’t blamed the government or sued anybody. I just took it in stride, because things like that happen. That’s life.
Health Regulations are Strangling the Life Out of Maryland’s Small Farm Economy
Now, that milk prices have dropped to $11.00 a hundredweight (from $20.00) small dairies in Maryland are dealing with a death blow. Meanwhile, avid raw milk drinkers in Maryland are spending a large portion of their food budget in neighboring states. Reitzig, who serves as the President of the Maryland Independent Farmers and Consumers Association, estimates about $2.5 million food dollars from Maryland families are going to other states. When consumers are buying milk and cheese from another state, they go ahead and buy meat and produce from the same source.
My challenge to the Maryland State legislators is to take a close look at the fact that onerous regulations are choking the life out of small farms. Farmers must have the right to free and fair trade. This over-reaching control of family farms needs to be reversed by an act of the legislature, or Maryland small dairies will die a painful death.
See Other Recent Articles on the Subject:
Md. Bill Would Permit Cow Ownership Agreements–Lancaster Farming
Raw Milk Debate–Baltimore Sun