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Raw milk stirs controversy in Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Raw milk stirs controversy in Vermont

Hinesburg, Vermont - February 18, 2011

Lindsay Harris owns Family Cow Farmstand, the largest seller of raw milk in Vermont.

"We like the control that we have over our own business so we set our own price and we're able to direct market our milk so we have relationships with our friends and neighbors that buy the milk," Harris said.

State law prevents the sale of raw milk in stores. The Vermont Health Department says that's for safety reasons because raw milk could potentially contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli.

So farms, like the Family Cow, rely on groups like Rural Vermont. The group holds raw milk classes twice a month.

Family Cow Farmstand can sell 40 gallons of raw milk a day. They say Rural Vermont acts as an advocacy group for a growing niche market.

"We teach people how to make dairy products and we use raw milk from the farms that are hosting them," said Jared Carter, the executive director of Rural Vermont.

But Rural Vermont milk classes have been put on hold after it received a letter from the Vermont Agriculture Agency saying the group is violating two raw milk laws-- basically promoting the sale and use of raw milk for anything other than drinking. And the state says students in those classes may not hold valid milk handler licenses.

"Putting on a class thats purpose is to increase raw milk sales is really saying that you're increasing raw milk sales by increasing manufacturing which is against the statue," said Dan Scruton, the dairy and energy chief at the Vt. Agriculture Agency.

Rural Vermont says that people are upset with the Ag Agency for overstepping its boundaries.

"I've gotten probably 120 e-mails from people that feel like where's the renaissance in agriculture if the law is going into people's kitchens and telling them you can't do what you want to do in your own kitchen. You can't take your milk and do what you want with it," Carter said.

"The ideal outcome is that people know what they're getting into when it comes to raw milk and that's the way it's set up, so as long as they're following the statute we don't have a problem with that and we encourage farms to get into value-added products," Scruton said.

"We can produce it on a very small scale where it's really clean and really safe," Lindsay Harris said.

A controversial product that Harris says is her livelihood.

The Agriculture Agency says the letter was just a warning and they want to work with Rural Vermont to settle the disagreement.

Gina Bullard - WCAX News

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