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Massachusetts Raw Milk Hearing May 10

The May 10 hearing on proposed regulatory changes that would outlaw raw milk buying clubs is just one week away. Response to an earlier alert has been strong. Many people have emailed, called and written to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and their legislators to express their opposition to the proposal. In turn, many legislators have offered their support, writing letters of their own to MDAR.

 To recap: The NOFA/Massachusetts Raw Milk Network opposes the proposed changes to the regulations that would make it illegal for a consumer to ask someone else to pick up raw milk from the farm for them. We feel there is no valid public health reason to distinguish between a person picking up their own milk at the farm -- which MDAR supports -- and having someone else pick it up for them. The proposed change is discriminatory, it creates the potential for growth in consumption of non-tested raw milk, and it will harm dairy farms.

Many people have requested templates to use when submitting comments. We encourage everyone to use their own language to express their concern, and we have made our comment letter available online. Please feel free to use and adapt the following language as well:

"I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed changes to the Massachusetts raw milk regulations that would outlaw buying groups. These clubs have been operating legally and safely for many years, and during that time have proven that they pose no threat to public health. These clubs provide access to raw milk for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to obtain it safely, and these sales support the farms. In addition, the clubs save gas and road miles, helping to preserve the environment.

I appreciate the work MDAR has done to ensure access to raw milk for consumers in Massachusetts, and to protect the safety of the milk that is sold on the farm. But when that milk is picked up, whether by me or a buying group I choose to work with, it becomes my property and it is up to me to ensure its proper handling or entrust that responsibility to someone else. I urge you to protect this right with any changes you may make to the regulations."

We are expecting a large crowd at the hearing, many of whom will want to testify. Depending upon time limits set by those running the hearing, not everyone may get a chance to speak. We encourage everyone to bring written copies of what they would like to say, so that it can be submitted into the record that way if need be.

MDAR has indicated that they do want to hear from people about this issue, but that testimony must stick to the topic at hand. They also want to give everyone a chance to be heard, but not let testimony become too repetitive. We ask that people keep their testimony brief, in order to give as many people as possible a chance to be heard.

Comments should focus on what the proposed language would mean to raw milk buying groups and how that will negatively impact farms. The proposal is not to ban raw milk sales altogether. Please remember that MDAR has been and continues to be our only ally for raw milk at the state level. While we oppose their proposal, we also value their support. Please be respectful.

Similarly, the debate at hand isn't about whether or not raw milk is healthy or better than pasteurized milk, but about how access to the milk needs to be less restricted - not more.

The hearing will be held on May 10 at 10:00 a.m. in Conference Room A on the second floor of 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA. Written comments will also be accepted up until May 10, and may be sent to Scott J. Soares, Department of Agricultural Resources, 251 Causeway Street, Boston, MA 02114.

For more information, or to find out how you can get involved in the NOFA/Massachusetts Raw Milk Network, please contact Winton Pitcoff at winton@nofamass.org. For updates and other raw milk news, please join our Facebook page.

For more information, or to find out how you can get involved in the Massachusetts Raw Milk Network, a program of NOFA/Mass, please contact Winton Pitcoff at winton@nofamass.org.