Under current Illinois law, farmers can sell an unlimited amount of raw milk on the farm without a permit. Legislators and health officials were working hard to completely banish farm-to-consumer agreements in some sneaky ways. This was not lost on Illinois’ thriving raw milk market.
The ball got rolling last year, with health bureaucrats issuing statements at a farmers meeting that they wanted regulations because…there were none. They tried to assure farmers that they could still sell raw milk BUT – only less than 100 gallons per month, after purchasing expensive large-scale equipment meant for Big Dairy, NO herd-share agreements, and keep customer logs. Translation: buy expensive equipment to produce a pittance of milk to sell to no one and give us your files. Then, they admitted they didn’t want the public to have any access.
If that wasn’t absurd enough, the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium launched a health warning campaign and called for an all-out ban. Today, the Weston A. Price Foundation issued a point-by-point rebuttal of Illinois public health official claims that a ban was warranted. See Response to the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, Inc. on the Campaign for Real Milk website. It’s pretty compelling. Wait, there’s more…
Now, a proposed bill in Illinois banning the sale and distribution of natural or “raw” milk, has come to a screeching halt this session after legislators heard from thousands of natural milk supporters.
The restriction, which was slipped in as an amendment to an unrelated bill, HB 4036 HA1, would have banned the sale and distribution of raw milk in Illinois. The sponsor, Daniel Burke (D-23rd district), chose not to move the bill out of committee after legislators were inundated with calls and emails from concerned Illinois citizens.
Burke, who is known for generally supporting farmers, was listening and said:
I am convinced, by virtue of the thousands of communications I’ve received, that natural dairy should continue to be made available to our society. If people believe this product is beneficial, I am not going to interfere with that. It was never my intention to put any restriction on the farmers.
“When I am able to purchase this healthful product within Illinois, I am able to support farmers I know and trust,” says Vicki McConnell, a Lee County resident and active supporter of access to natural milk. “Supporting our local economy is as important to me as accessing healthy products for my family. I am grateful that the legislators see the sense in not imposing additional restrictions on this voluntary exchange for food.”
After the amendment was introduced, consumers and farmers alike rallied to inform elected officials about the benefits of natural milk. Farmers brought samples of the milk to the state capitol. Representatives learned about the importance of this local product with some even opting to try fresh milk for the first time. Several allegedly said it was the best milk they’ve ever had.
Burke says he was asked to introduce the amendment by a Cook County Health Department official who was concerned with not having regulations in place for off-farm sales and distribution. Burke notes that he learned a lot from the people who contacted his office expressing their concerns.
With the increasing popularity of the beverage, including legislation introduced on the national level, it just doesn’t make sense to interfere with the direct relationship between the people who produce this food and the people who want it. I have no intention of moving forward with this bill. I would like to see the law remain as it is and I appreciate all those who took the time to contact me with their opinions.
This is a prime example of what activism and getting closer to your legislators can do – who would have thought? Let’s not allow alarmist health “officials” write the laws that block access to fresh foods. Without the response from Weston A. Price and raw milk supporters, a misguided warning slipped into an unrelated bill could have devastated Illinois farmers and their patrons.
The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the nutrition education nonprofit, The Weston A. Price Foundation. Based in Washington, DC, WAPF is the leading advocacy group promoting broader consumer access to safety-tested raw milk. Contact [email protected] or visit realmilk.com and westonaprice.org. A press release where a good portion of this information originated also appeared at GlobeNewswire
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