© AgMedia Inc.
by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The provincial government is “disappointed” by a Newmarket Justice of the Peace’s ruling today that raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt’s cow share agreements are legal.
“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling,” says Brent Ross, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “The government will review the court’s decision and determine the next steps.”
Ministry of Natural Resources officers raided Schmidt’s biodynamic farm operation north of the town of Durham in 2006. Schmidt was charged with illegally operating a milk processing plant as well as selling, offering for sale, transporting and distributing raw milk, as well as breaching previous orders prohibiting him from marketing raw milk.
Schmidt claimed that he ran a cooperative and distributed milk to families who owned shares in the cows he managed. He was producing milk without a quota or a license issued by the provincial marketing board.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario did not respond to requests for a comment on the court decision on Thursday afternoon.
During his trial last year, Schmidt challenged the Constitutionality of section 18 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act and section 15 of the Milk Act, both of which prohibit the sale and distribution of raw milk.
A court document filed by the Attorney General’s office on the charter issue said the provisions prohibiting the sale and distribution of raw milk “are intended to address a clear and serious risk to public safety in Ontario. The evidence demonstrates that the sale and consumption of raw milk constitutes a significant public health hazard not only to those who choose to drink it but also to the broader community given the risks posed by person to person transmission” of diseases.
Sally Fallon, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Weston A. Price Foundation, calls raw milk “the wave of the future.” She says it’s where the organic movement was 20 years ago: “a fringe movement poised to become mainstream. I think it is kind of an irresistible force, at least in the United States.” The foundation, a registered charity with a budget of US$1.2 million last year, recently opened a chapter in Canada.
Fallon says raw milk sellers are being “harassed” even in states where selling raw milk is legal. Cow share arrangements similar to Schmidt’s are springing up in states where raw milk sales are illegal. One of the reasons for its growing popularity stateside is because conventional dairy producers are paid so poorly for their product. A conventional farmer gets about US$1 a gallon for milk. A raw milk producer gets $4 to $13 a gallon.
Fallon says no industry groups support her foundation. “We don’t believe food should be made by an industry,” she says. “We believe food should be grown by farmers, prepared by artisans, and cooked in your own home.”
Fallon says the foundation does not recommend selling raw milk from a confinement operation. “The milk will be much healthier if the cows are on grass.”
More than a third of 2,000 Canadian dairy producers responding to a survey published recently in the Journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine thought consumers should be able to buy unpasteurized milk in Canada.
“There is quite a turnout of people here for Michael Schmidt. This is quite an issue,” Jack McLaren, president of the Ontario Landowners Association said outside the courthouse on Thursday morning.
Michael Schmidt, who represented himself during the trial last year, “did a wonderful job of defending himself,” McLaren adds. Government “is out there to destroy (his) business.” BF