Organic Consumers Association

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El Dorado County Farmers Challenge Food Regulations

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Farm Issues page and our Raw Milk page.

Pattie Chelseth thinks she has the right to sell you a fraction of a cow.

Chelseth, operator of My Sisters' Farm in Shingle Springs, keeps two cows owned by 15 people.

A cow's owner can legally drink its milk filtered but unpasteurized, so she believes each of those 15 owners is entitled to a share of the raw milk.

California's Department of Food and Agriculture sees it otherwise.

"We consider that a commercial transaction and subject to the dairy food safety laws," said Steve Lyle, the agency's public affairs director.

A battle in a milk bottle is brewing, as small farmers challenge state and federal regulations.

Chelseth is trying to land the latest blow, floating an ordinance for El Dorado County that she thinks would give small producers the right to sell unregulated goods - milk, cheese, home-baked pies and more - directly to the person who consumes them.

She will hold a local meeting at her farm on Friday.

She said there are at least eight other dairy shares in El Dorado County, and others are interested.

"If it's a private customer, from person-to-person," Chelseth said, "that shouldn't be regulated."

For her to be regulated and inspected for milk would be a $100,000 proposition, Chelseth said.

She's not even trying to be in business. She bought a cow in order to get raw milk for a grandchild, she said.

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