Tuesday, April 26, 2011

FDA Files Suit Against Pennsylvania Dairy for Selling Raw Milk

On April 26, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed suit against Rainbow Acres Farm in Pennsylvania seeking a permanent injunction to halt the sale of unpasteurized, or "raw" milk.   The press release from the FDA can be found at:  http://www.fda.gov/pressrelease.

The FDA had previously sent a number of warning letters to the farm warning that its selling of raw milk violated federal law, including this letter on April 10, 2010:
An investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that you are causing to be delivered into interstate commerce, selling, or otherwise distributing raw milk in final package form for human consumption. Such distribution is a violation of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, Title 42 United States Code, Section 264(a), and the implementing regulation codified in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 1240.61(a). The regulation prohibits the delivery into interstate commerce of milk and milk products in final package form for direct human consumption unless they have been pasteurized. For your information, we have enclosed a copy of the regulation as it was published in the Federal Register, 52 FR 29509 (Aug 10, 1987).
Complete letter is found at:   www.fda.gov/warningletter2010

Although producers tempted to sell raw milk may worry about state law liability, the FDA suit is a good reminder that federal law prohibits the sale unpasteurized milk if such sale is accomplished through interstate commerce.  The Code of Federal Regulations states:

Mandatory pasteurization for all milk and milk products in final package form intended for direct human consumption.
(a) No person shall cause to be delivered into interstatecommerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale orother distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milkor milk product in final package form for direct human consumptionunless the product has been pasteurized or is made from dairyingredients (milk or milk products) that have all beenpasteurized, except where alternative procedures to pasteurizationare provided for by regulation, such as in part 133 of thischapter for curing of certain cheese varieties.
21 C.F.R. § 1240.61

Finally, for those new to the raw milk debate, the FDA website contains a good synopsis of why the law prohibiting the sale of raw milk in interstate commerce exists. www.fda.gov/dangersofrawmilk  This includes, according to the FDA, a number of "myths" about the benefits of raw milk:

Raw Milk & Pasteurization: Debunking Milk Myths

While pasteurization has helped provide safe, nutrient-rich milk and cheese for over 120 years, some people continue to believe that pasteurization harms milk and that raw milk is a safe healthier alternative.
Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:
  • Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reations. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
  • Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk's nutritional value.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for extended time, particularly after it has been opened.
  • Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
  • Pasteurization DOES save lives.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Environmental Groups Petition EPA to Regulate Ammonia

An organization called the Environmental Integrity Project, as well as other citizen groups from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Sierra Club, and the Waterkeeper Alliance (collectively, the "petitioners"), have petitioned Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the U.S. E.P.A, alleging that the EPA has failed to regulate “ammonia” under the Clean Air Act.  In particular, the petition is directed at ammonia emissions from large concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The petitioners contend that ammonia is a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act:

Ammonia gas, an air pollutant emitted in vast quantities by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), meets the criteria for listing as a CAA criteria pollutant, because ammonia emissions from numerous CAFOs and other sources “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” CAA § 108. The predominantly rural nature of this pollution does not limit EPA's authority to regulate; in fact, courts have made clear that even localized, site-specific, and infrequent ambient air pollution may create a public health risk that meets the § 108 standard and therefore warrants CAA regulation.

The petitioners then allege that ammonia emissions create a public health risk:

Ammonia pollution threatens public health in numerous ways encompassed by these broad definitions. Threats to public health from ambient ammonia include increased risk of respiratory symptoms, eye and nose irritation, and other physical discomfort, as well as more severe health effects. Ammonia also contributes to the health effects of the mixture of gases in CAFO air emissions, which studies have linked to respiratory symptoms as well as headaches, nausea, and increased incidence of infant mortality. If certain communities face a disproportionate and substantial risk of adverse health effects from airborne ammonia, EPA may – and should – find that ammonia warrants regulation as a criteria pollutant. Extensive research conducted on both human and animal subjects over several decades establishes that ammonia emissions endanger human health. Indeed, several federal agencies, including EPA, have recognized this threat by establishing health standards or recommended exposure limits to protect workers and others exposed to airborne ammonia. CAFO emissions research further shows that airborne ammonia levels in some communities currently exceed relevant health benchmarks, demonstrating that ammonia is reasonably anticipated to endanger public health.

The petitioners cite to a number of studies that purport to prove the dangers of ammonia inhalation at various levels.  The petition suggests that inhalation of ammonia is dangerous for CAFO workers as well as nearby residents. 

But the petitioners do not just point the finger at "ammonia" as the public health threat.  Instead, the petition is specifically directed at ammonia emanating from CAFOs, as facilities that “release vast quantities of ammonia into the ambient air, creating a heightened health threat to communities near numerous and/or very large CAFOs.”  The petitioners assert that “CAFOs are leading contributors to the nation’s ammonia inventory; by one EPA estimate livestock account for approximately 80 percent of total emissions.  CAFOs also emit a disproportionately large share of the ammonia in certain states and communities.”

The petition also blames ammonia emissions for “deterioration of property and economic values,” and “quality of life issues.”  Likewise, the petitioners assert that ammonia emissions create an environment where many “homeowners living near CAFOs find themselves unable to sell their homes and relocate because CAFO air pollution . . . makes their home undesirable, thereby dramatically lowering its market value.”  Finally, the petitioners contend that ambient ammonia “impair[s] visibility in pristine areas.”  These alleged effects of ammonia emissions appear as nothing more than diversions from the real question about whether ambient ammonia emissions from CAFOs should be regulated "pollutants" under the CAA.  The EPA's core mission is not to protect property values or improve the desirability of residential homes.  The EPA's purpose is to protect human health and the environment.  www.epa.gov/aboutepa  

The petition is the latest attempt to add another level of regulation upon what is already a highly regulated industry.  Many persons who do not work with livestock producers and farmers on a day-to-day basis might read the petition and assume that CAFOs and large farms operate without any, or at least very little, oversight.  Such an assumption would be wrong.  In reality, America's large farms are already highly regulated, sophisticated enterprises.  

The petition concludes with a request to the EPA that it regulate ammonia emissions from CAFOs.  The full text of the petition can be found at:  Environmental Integrity v. EPA - Petition

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

EPA Officially Exempts Milk Containers from SPCC Rule

The EPA announced today that milk and milk containers would be exempted from the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule (SPCC).  This means that milk containment structures will not need to comply with the same standards in place for oil containment structures.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote in the EPA's press release today:  

“After working closely with dairy farmers and other members of the agricultural community, we’re taking commonsense steps to exempt them from a provision in this rule that simply shouldn’t apply to them. Despite the myths that have arisen about EPA’s intentions, our efforts have been solely focused on exempting milk and milk products from this regulation -- and that exemption is now permanent.  This step will relieve a potential burden from our nation’s dairy farms, potentially saving them money, and ensuring that EPA can focus on the pressing business of environmental and health protection.”

For more information about the EPA's decision, please click on the following links:
EPA's April 12, 2011 press release:  EPA press release on milk/SPCC
EPA's fact sheet on milk/SPCC rule exemption:  http://www.epa.gov/oem/docs/oil/spcc/fs_milk.pdf 


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Challenging Times Remain for Dutch Dairy Farms in the U.S.

While driving home the other evening an interesting story caught my attention on NPR's Marketplace. It was a story about Dutch dairy families that immigrated to Iowa.  I have been to the Netherlands many times, seen the beautiful Dutch farms, and I have worked with Dutch farmers in Indiana and Ohio. But I was not familiar with those that relocated to Iowa. Sadly, their struggles are the same as those facing Indiana's dairy farmers in recent years.

This new wave of farmers left their successful but limited farms in the Netherlands to build new, bigger, and better farms in the United States.  Unfortunately for some of these farmers, the American dream turned into a nightmare. Skyrocketing feed prices combined with plummeting milk prices to making it impossible to make ends meet.  As stated by Dutch farmer Edward Reuling, referring the last half of the decade:
Cows were more expensive, feed was more expensive. We couldn't make any profit at that time.

Indiana too has seen an influx of Dutch dairy farmers in the past decade.  Some of these farms have weathered the economic storm.  And unfortunately, some have been forced to go back to the Netherlands, as the article states, "penniless."  Let's hope better days are ahead.

A link to the Marketplace story is below:

Program to lure Dutch dairy farmers to U.S. turns sour | Marketplace From American Public Media