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Raw Deal for Home Dairy Farms Seeking Common Sense Raw Milk Regulations

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Assemblymember Mariko Yamada and Home Dairy Supporters during press conference on AB 2505- Farm-to-Fridge at Phoenix Ranch, Vacaville on April 4, 2014. 

Sacramento - Two years ago, a working group hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) per farmers’ requests, invited numerous stakeholders to the table to discuss the practice of sharing and selling the excess raw milk from families with a small number of lactating animals after some farmers were issued cease and desist letters for sharing or selling their raw milk without a permit.  Home dairy farmers, with technical input from agencies such as CDFA and the Department of Public Health (DPH), designed safety standards to regulate the practice and to protect the consumers. These recommendations were translated into Assembly Bill 2505 introduced by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) that died today in Assembly Agriculture Committee.

“I authored AB 2505 because one-size fits all regulations have never worked for our diverse agricultural state. Current facility requirements for those who wish to share small amounts of excess milk with their neighbors are cost-prohibitive for these small family farmers,” Yamada said. “Although AB 2505 enjoyed strong support from the Community Alliance for Family Farms, the California Grange, and hundreds of individual small home dairy owners, we were unable to overcome opposition from the California Farm Bureau, Western United Dairymen, and the California Medical Association.”     

Currently, small home dairies have no recourse under the law to offer their raw milk to anyone because California regulations require a family with three or less cows to comply with facility standards designed for large scale, retail production. AB 2505 would have established special standards for the harvesting and sharing of raw milk from home dairy farms with no more than three milk-producing cows or no more than 15 other milk-producing hoofed mammals on the premises.

For generations, farm families have been choosing to drink raw milk from their cows, goats or other lactating mammals, and have traditionally shared extra milk with neighbors and friends. The need to create these standards for California’s small home dairy farms is a priority for them so that they may put their milk to use instead of throwing it away.  Consumption of raw milk is already legal in California and 33 other states. AB 2505 would have brought home dairies into compliance with the same Grade A California raw milk standards already in place.

“This rational bill would’ve helped to preserve that multi-generational legacy of the family cow and ensures that people are educated to produce milk that meets the same bacterial standards as Grade A raw milk,” said Doniga Markegard, the owner of a grass-fed cattle ranch in the San Mateo County Coast. “We will be back next year.”

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