Friday, January 18, 2008

Raw Milk: Letter from Annapolis

This week members of the Maryland Independent Farmers and Consumers Association converged on Annapolis, MD, to convince state legislators that sales of raw milk should be legal. But rather than hear me tell about it, here's a letter from the MIFCA's Liz Reitzig:

Our second annual legislative brunch and lobby day proved to be another great success. Over 100 legislators and aides trooped in after the General Assembly, ready for great food and conversation. Local producers and consumers provided a wonderful buffet of fresh milk, raw milk cheeses and crackers, homemade breads, yogurt with fruit, several types of meatloaf, custards, chocolate mousse, three flavors of ice cream, fermented veggies, gingerbread with homemade cream cheese, herbed ricotta, emu egg frittata, and many other delights.

While some MICFA members served the food, others visited with legislators and aides. Several legislators and aides expressed an interest in learning about other locally produced foods and helped themselves to extra literature. It was inspiring to hear from the delegates and senators that they were there because a constituent had invited them. Many of these asked to be directed to the constituent who had sent the invitation. (Thanks to each person who took the time to email or call legislators. It obviously made a huge difference in the turnout. It also goes to show how valuable personal contacts are in building relationships.)

The Lobbying: A short time into the brunch, several MICFA members took the newly printed educational postcards and went to delegates’ offices, where they responded to questions about fresh milk and its benefits. Active, healthy children accompanied their mothers. The children were welcomed and enjoyed in the offices they visited.Members who lobbied said they were surprised at how easy and fun it was. Several got to speak with the delegates as well as the aides.The BillThis year’s bill (HB 147 <" target=_blank>>), is the same as last year’s. If passed as written, it would allow unregulated, direct farmer-to-consumer sales of fresh milk.

Many legislators were enthusiastic supporters of the bill. Some spoke of their desire to see an increase in availability of local foods to Maryland citizens. Delegate Kipke, this year’s sponsor, infused the event with positive energy. His commitment to see legalized, unregulated sales of fresh milk in Maryland is unequaled. Delegate Mary Ann Love, last year’s sponsor of the legislation, also came by and expressed her ongoing support of the legislation and our efforts. At the end of the day, Delegate Rick Weldon came over to meet with the constituent who had invited him. He expressed his strong support for the bill and his willingness to help out in any way he could. This is the direct result of relationship building and communication between a constituent and an elected representative.

Other lawmakers have had no exposure to fresh milk. They can learn through us. Conversely, several of the lawmakers said they had grown up on fresh milk and were surprised to learn that its availability mattered to anyone. We can change this perception.Sally and I had an opportunity to meet with Delegate Hammen, the chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee, which will hear the bill.

The meeting went very well, but we still have much work to do to convince him that fresh milk is a healthful product. His concern is that if he were to allow sales of fresh milk and someone became sick from it, he would bear responsibility. He expressed this concern several times. The appropriate action to take on this would be for those who drink fresh milk to contact him with their success stories—stories about recoveries from illness through the consumption of fresh milk, increased immunity, improved health of children, and how good health has been maintained by regular consumption of fresh milk.

Delegate Hammen needs to understand that the benefits of fresh milk are authentic and outweigh the minimal potential risks. (Delegate Hammen’s contact info:

Thank you to all who participated! We hope to see you all at the hearing. I’ll keep everyone posted with action alerts, but please be advised that we will not get much notice prior to the hearing.

And thank you, Liz.

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