BOSTON (Nov. 11, 2015) – Last month, a Massachusetts committee held a hearing to consider a bill that would expand consumer access to raw milk in the state. Passage would also strengthen the foundation to nullify in practice federal goals to fully ban this natural dairy product nationwide.

Introduced by Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), along with 28 bipartisan co-sponsors, Senate Bill 419 (S419) would encourage the production and distribution of raw milk in the state of Massachusetts, broadening legal protections for consumers and manufacturers alike. It received its first committee hearing on Oct. 28 in the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture since the bill’s introduction back in April. It reads, in part:

“Licensed raw milk farmers will be allowed to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer, off-site from the farm, provided that the raw milk farmer have a direct, contractual relationship with the consumer. The raw milk farmer may contract with a third party for delivery provided that the raw milk farmer shall maintain the contractual relationship with the consumer. The raw milk farmer may deliver raw milk through a community supported agriculture (CSA) delivery system provided that the raw milk farmer shall maintain a contractual relationship with the consumer. Delivery may be made directly to the consumer’s residence or to a pre-established receiving site; said sites shall not be in a retail setting with the exception of CSA delivery. In such instances, raw milk shall be kept separated from retail items for sale and will not be accessible to the general public.”

Measures such as S419 can hamper the ability of federal bureaucrats to control what Americans put into their bodies. They can also provide additional layers of defense against the federal war against raw milk, which has ramped up in recent years.


Federal officials insist that unpasteurized milk poses a health risk because of its susceptibility to contamination from cow manure, a source of E. coli.

“It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed,” agency spokeswoman Tamara N. Ward said in November 2011.

The agency is certainly entitled to offer its opinion. But the FDA doesn’t seem content to just warn Americans of a potential hazard. In 1987, the feds implemented 21 CFR 1240.61(a), providing that, “no person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized.

Simply put, the federal government claims a complete prohibition on the transportation of raw milk across state lines. Carrying unpasteurized dairy from one state to another constitutes a federal crime.

But that’s not all. The feds actually claim they have the power to impose a nationwide ban – including intrastate sales and consumption. The FDA said, “It is within HHS’s authority…to institute an intrastate ban [on unpasteurized milk] as well.”

The FDA combined its opinion that raw milk should “never be consumed,” with its claim to possess the power to institute a complete intrastate ban in response to a lawsuit by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF).  Additionally, the FDA essentially argued Americans only have a right to consume things when it grants permission.

“There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.

“Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.” [p.26]

The FDA clearly wants complete prohibition of raw milk. Its rhetoric makes that abundantly clear. The federal government already maintains an interstate ban, and claims the power to maintaining prohibition within the borders of a state as well. Some insiders say it’s only a matter of time before the feds try to institute a complete ban on raw milk. Armed raids by FDA agents on companies like Rawsome Foods back in 2011 and Amish farms over the last few years also indicate this scenario may not be too far off.


While the feds attempt to maintain their ban, states can legalize the production, sale and consumption of raw milk within their own borders. Of course, such state laws don’t directly nullify the federal prohibition, but they take an important step in that direction.

Think of it this way – if all 50 states allow raw milk, will the federal ban even really matter?

It might, if the feds can muster up the resources to stop people from transporting raw milk across state lines. But history indicates they can’t.

As far as the interstate ban goes, even if the feds did manage to police every state border and shut down the interstate transportation of raw milk, markets within the states could easily grow to the point that local sales would render the federal ban on interstate commerce almost pointless.

And as we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, an intrastate ban becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws permitting the prohibited activity anyway. The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages the market.

In the same way, removing state barriers to raw milk consumption, sale and production would undoubtedly spur the creation of new markets for unpasteurized dairy products, no matter what the feds claim the power to do.

State actions can open up space for a strong raw milk market to take root and grow. Ultimately, when enough people and enough states join in, federal efforts to ban this food will be nullified in practice. That’s what S419 is all about.


S419 has yet to receive a vote in the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. That committee must approve the legislation before it can receive a full vote in the state Senate.

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