This article first appeared on Lew Rockwell last March. The shoe still fits.
Not many people would look at me and see a confessed criminal. As a suburban mom with 5 small children, a minivan and a dog, it’s just not people’s first assumption about me. However, I am a repeat and proud offender of the FDAs regulation 21 CFR 1240.61 — the ban on interstate transportation of raw milk. I am a raw milk criminal.
For years I have transported raw milk across state lines and have every intention of continuing to do so until this food is widely available within my home state of Maryland.
About 9 years ago, when my oldest child was just beginning to eat real food, she had major problems digesting milk and milk products. After much research and thought, I decided to try raw milk for her. So I joined a cow share operation.
A cow share operation is very similar to horse boarding. You buy a share in a cow and then pay a farmer to board and milk the animal and then you receive the milk from your own cow. This is a great way for suburban and urban families to enjoy the benefits of raw milk from their own animals. But, it is currently illegal in Maryland. As is transporting raw milk across state lines. Which puts me in a difficult position.
We were very happy with our cow share. We enjoyed visiting the farm, petting our cow and learning about what is involved in taking care of the animals. My daughter’s health improved as a result and it was a win-win.
Shortly after we began, though, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH) arbitrarily changed the definition of “sale” of raw milk to include a cow share operation. They even included barter arrangements in that.
It was crushing to lose access to the food that I had carefully chosen for my children and devastating to the farmer involved.
The MDHMH rule already criminalized all peaceful farmers who simply wanted to share excess milk with their friends or neighbors and the altered definition destroyed the means for suburban and urban families to enjoy the milk from their own dairy animals.
It is most unfortunate that the state of Maryland has actively continued to allow the criminalization of hard working, peaceful farmers who produce a product people want.
With this criminalization, comes a scarcity. Because of the scarcity of fresh milk from Maryland producers, thousands of Maryland families procure their fresh milk from Pennsylvania farmers and, in doing so become criminals for transporting that fresh milk across state lines.
I personally help facilitate families who want to cooperate in the procurement of fresh milk. I, and a growing number of individuals, will continue to transport raw milk across state lines and make it available to anyone in Maryland who wants it. Peaceful farmers are criminalized for providing food to eager individuals while peaceful consumers are criminalized for obtaining the food of their choice from the producer of their choice.
In my capacity as an organizer for fresh milk in Maryland, I see upwards of 3 million dollars per year go to Pennsylvania farmers that could otherwise go to revitalize and restore Maryland’s rural communities. This economic setback is devastating to the already failing Maryland dairy industry.
To ignore the consequences of denying the growing demand, simply means we will see a greater collapse of Maryland dairy farms and increased severe economic loss for Maryland.
A wise man once said: “On some positions cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?!’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience must ask the question, ‘Is it right?’
And there comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But one must take it because it is right. And that is where I find myself today.”
— Martin Luther King
While King spoke these words about taking a position in protestation of war, the principle is equally important in regards to any criminalization of a peaceful, normal, natural human behavior.
I make the comparison not to allude to the actual events of the civil rights movement, but because it is intolerable that ordinary people are criminalized for normal, natural, peaceful human behavior.
Whether that behavior is drinking from a fountain, sitting on the front of a bus, a farmer feeding his community or a mother transporting milk to feed her family, it is the criminalization of peaceful individuals that begs the question, “Is it right?”
I hope that the coming months and years show a groundswell of peaceful non-compliance with laws and regulations whose only purpose serves to criminalize the normal aspects of our peaceful lives.
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.