Raw milk, the unpasteurized dairyland goodness that is the basis for most of the world's great cheeses, is becoming a political issue.
In Pennsylvania, farmer Mark Nolt is being harassed by state agriculture officials for the crime -- yes, crime -- of selling unpasteurized dairy products to consumers who want them.
Earlier this month, state officials seized some $25,000 worth of supplies, equipment and products from Nolt's farm in Newville. Nolt told reporters that the state threatened him with arrest and imprisonment if he tries to sell again without a permit.
The issue is more than just about a missing permit, however. While Pennsylvania does grant permits to allow sales of unpasteurized milk, the state expressly bans farmers from selling raw-milk products like cheese and yogurt. Nolt has sound-minded customers interested in buying, yet the state says no, and is willing to use its law-enforcement powers to block him.
Raw milk is an issue in states across the country. The New York Times recently reported on the rising controversy pitting raw-milk advocates against agriculture bureaucrats.
As the Times story notes, interstate sales of unpasteurized milk are forbidden by the federal government. In 15 states, any sale for human consumption of raw milk is banned, and another 26 states put various restrictions on its sale.
In San Francisco, where I live, raw milk is legal, widely available, and delicious. (I made some ice cream with it recently, which was out-of-this-world tasty.)
But in places like New York City, where it's much, much harder to come by, black markets thrive. According to the Times, Amish farmers are shipping up to 200 cases a month of the stuff to buyers in the Big Apple.
My view? Banning this milk is ridiculous. Sure, consumers should know that bacteria may be present in unpasteurized milk. Sure, farmers should be required to take care in handling and distributing the stuff. But ban it? The Nanny State needs to back off on this one.
Read more about it:
Should this milk be legal? New York Times story.
Raw milk rally. Cumberland County Sentinel (PA) story.
Farmers fight back. Lancaster Farming (PA) story.