Photo courtesy of Michael Schmidt
This June the trial of Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt and three other farmers for obstructing a police officer will resume. The charge stems from a 2015 raid of Schmidt’s Glencolton Farms where members of a food cooperative obtaining raw milk products and other foods from Schmidt stopped police from confiscating those foods.
The province of Ontario and local government authorities have been prosecuting Schmidt since 1994 for distributing raw milk, spending millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in the process. The sale and distribution of raw milk have remained illegal throughout this entire time in all Canadian provinces. It’s interesting to contrast the provinces’ refusal to change laws on raw milk sales with legal developments in the U.S. over the past 23 years.
While provincial and local governments have been wasting millions of dollars since 1994 in prosecuting Schmidt, 16 states in the U.S. have either legalized the sale and/or distribution of raw milk or increased access to it through changes in statute, regulation, or policy. The states are Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The sale or distribution of raw milk is now legal in 42 states in the U.S. Currently, there are 27 states that have legalized the sale of raw milk for human consumption, 9 have legalized the distribution of raw milk through herd share agreements, and 6 have legalized the sale of raw milk for pet consumption. The federal ban on raw milk for human consumption will become even more meaningless over the upcoming years as the remaining 8 holdout states legalize the distribution of the product. As it is, thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens violate the ban each week in the U.S. by obtaining raw milk from across state lines.
There is no need for a federal ban in Canada with the sale or any distribution of raw milk being illegal in each province but, in that country as well, thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens violate the provincial bans each week. The demand for raw milk has increased significantly since the government started harassing Schmidt in 1994. The multiple enforcement actions taken against Schmidt over the past 23 years have not been an effective deterrent.
In expanding legal access to raw milk, the experience of the states has been a growth in demand, increased income opportunities for farmers, and a good overall track record for food safety. The Canadian provinces should do the same.
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Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts, social media outreach, and the online petition service.
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