Raw milk dairy producers met early Sunday morning, hoping to have their voices heard.
The group Rural Vermont has spent the last nine months talking to farmers about their concerns. "We're gathering information in order to put together the priorities for the farmers so that we can take that to the legislature. We need some improvements, we need some changes to the law," said the group's Andrea Stander.
Four years ago, lawmakers allowed producers to sell milk on their farms. A Senate bill introduced last session would have allowed larger producers to sell off the farm. Small scale farmers weren't included due to ongoing health concerns about the non-pasteurized product.
Right now, the raw milk law limits how much milk a farmer can sell and where they sell it -- limits that smaller producers say are hurting business.
"I would say that the gateway place is the farmer's market -- and the critical place," said Mark McAfee, the founder of Organic Pastures Dairy in California. He says the first step to getting raw milk in the mainstream marketplace is education. "If every dairy farmer is a dairy educator, there will never be enough raw milk for anybody to sell," he said.
Standers says concerns -- like high expenses for testing dairy cows -- place limits on small scale raw dairy production."If you're being required to meet all sorts of inspections and testing and so on and so forth, it isn't fair to be restricted in how much product you can sell," she said
Rural Vermont plans to introduce a new broad-based raw milk bill in the 2014 legislative session and continue the conversation about how to create a larger market for raw milk.
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