Setting the Record Straight on Raw Milk Illnesses

As published in a recent Austin American-Statesman article, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is now claiming that there were two small outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to raw milk in the spring of 2015. But this is the first time in the year and a half since the outbreaks happened that the agency has said anything about them. The article raises far more questions than it answers.

Here’s what typically happens when two or more people get sick from a foodborne illness:

The investigating authority first asks each person to list everything they ate or drank in the days before they got sick. As you can imagine, people’s recollection is often incomplete, especially when they’re sick. So the lists may or may not include the food product that had the bacteria. If the health department is able to identify a common food consumed by each of the affected persons, they then attempt to trace the food product to the farm or food manufacturer where it was produced.…

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Texas Update: FARFA’s Current Work on Local Food Issues

It’s been a busy summer for local food issues in Texas, between the ongoing developments in the state’s health department crackdown on raw milk, the state’s adoption of new federal food safety regulations, and laying the groundwork for a slate of bills for next year’s Legislative Session.

As we head into the fall, here’s a quick summary of where things stand:

cows-on-pasture-enhancedRaw Milk

As we’ve alerted you before, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) worked with local health departments and law enforcement to disrupt private groups’ distribution of raw milk earlier this spring and summer. The courier for a Harris County-area group was issued a citation and had to appear in court on August 24. (Background available here.)

FARFA Executive Director Judith McGeary attended the Harris County hearing, during which the courier (who was cited for operating an unlicensed retail food establishment) was represented by a criminal attorney provided by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.…

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Tell Texas Legislators to Hold Health Department Accountable

As we alerted you earlier this summer, the Texas Department of State Health Services has undertaken a campaign of aggressive enforcement against raw milk farmers and their customers.

This situation poses many problems for local food producers and consumers – whether you drink raw milk or not:

  • The use of law enforcement to intimidate consumers.
  • Changing the enforcement of the law based on a change in agency personnel – even though nothing has changed in the regulations and no illnesses have occurred.
  • Government harassment of producers based on complaints filed by competitors, not the public.

We’re already seeing the latter two cropping up with other types of local foods (although not as dramatically as with the raw milk busts).
This needs to stop. The health departments should be focusing on actual health risks, not using complaints from competitors as excuses to harass small local farmers and their customers.

FARFA’s been active in developing legal arguments, talking with agency officials and legislative staffers, consulting with the farmers, and more.…

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The TPP Fight Is Here

President Obama has just officially put Congress on notice that the TPP is coming.  To try to counter the opposition to this terrible trade agreement, the Administration is planning more than 30 high-profile events with cabinet members before the end of the month to push members of Congress to support the TPP.

But the momentum is on our side, and we have to keep it that way!  Obama has acknowledged that he cannot get a vote to approve the TPP until after the elections because it is such a political hot button topic.  We need to tell our legislators that we expect them to stay consistent and vote against the TPP after the election, as well as saying they’re against it before.

This two-thousand page document would set the rules for all the countries in it – including the U.S. – on agriculture, food, intellectual property and patents, banking, and more.…

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FARFA Board President Explains Why He Farms Sustainably

Tom and Janice Henslee produce real food on healthy soil at their 110-acre farm outside Ashboro, N.C. Tom, who serves as president of FARFA’s Board of Directors, raises pasture-based cows on his Back to Earth Farm. The Henslees’ farm is featured in this video produced by People-First Tourism Lab, a company that aims to entice the public to eat at local restaurants and visit the farms that supply them.

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FARFA: Fighting for Small Farms and Ranches

Originally published in Edible Houston and reprinted in Edible DFW

by Pamela Walker


Reforming farm-and-food policy isn’t everyone’s cup of kombucha. In fact, most people find policy work downright unappetizing, much as they do sausage making, to which the legislative process is proverbially compared. But if we like our local kombucha and sausages and want local food production to grow, we must press for policy and regulatory reform beneficial to independent family farmers and their customers. Fortunately, we have Judith McGeary, founder and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), doing much of the dirty work and opening ways for us to provide effective support. Joining FARFA is a good place to start.

Judith, a central Texas rancher with a biology degree from Stanford and a law degree from the University of Texas, has made FARFA a real force in influencing policy and regulations at the state and national levels.…

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Crackdown on Raw Milk Reflects Agency Bias, Not Law

Health Departments Engage Police for Raids on Distribution Points

KATY, Texas – Imagine going to pick up your weekly gallon of milk, only to be met by a group of county health inspectors and sheriff’s deputies who threaten arrest if you take the milk.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But that’s exactly what happened over the July 4th weekend as close to 100 raw milk customers met for their weekly pickup in a Katy church parking lot.

It is completely legal to purchase Grade A unpasteurized (“raw”) milk in Texas as long as the purchase is made from the dairy farmer on the farm. Rather than have each person drive multiple hours each way to the farm, consumers across Texas have coordinated pickups by designating one person as their agent to serve as courier. The customers pay the farmer for the milk, and the courier picks up the orders and distributes them at an agreed-upon location.…

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Harassment of Raw Milk Customers Continues


During the Independence Day weekend, the Harris County Health Department pulled Sheriff’s deputies away from a domestic dispute in order to bust a raw milk drop point.

This raid targeted adults who were picking up raw milk, purchased from a licensed, inspected farm, using a courier that they hired. To the Health Department, this apparently is a greater public concern than addressing domestic violence.

The Health Department refused to allow people to take the milk for which they had already paid, and issued a citation to the courier, ordering her to appear in court next month.

Just as in the similar incident in Austin, the department’s claim was that the courier needed to have a food establishment license, as is required of restaurants, food stores, and food trucks, for example. But if this is really what the law means, then UPS, FedEx, UberEats and other restaurant delivery services, CSA drop points, and volunteers organizing bulk purchases of any food are all operating illegally.…

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Raw Milk Situation Continues to Develop

Snapshot of Austin milk raidIn the wake of the raid on a raw milk drop point in Austin just before Memorial Day Weekend (pictured at right), we’ve received many questions about what happened – and what happens next.

There are four core points. (Click on each point to jump to details.)

  1. Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance stands behind the raw milk farms and the customers who have set up legal group distribution points.
  2. The recent raid appears to be due to a combination of an industry complainant and “rogue” bureaucrats.
  3. If government agents visit your home, you have legal rights and can choose how to proceed.
  4. YOU can make a difference!



Texas allows the purchase of Grade A raw milk only when purchased directly from the farmer at the place of production. For years, raw milk customers have cooperated to pick up each other’s milk and save a lot of time and gas – benefiting us all by reducing vehicle miles, traffic, and air pollution from unnecessary driving.…

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Key Senators Cave In to Monsanto

Yesterday, Senator Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) announced a deal to bring Monsanto’s dream bill to the Senate floor. Your Senators will vote as soon as next week.

To put it bluntly, the final bill is terrible. This so-called “compromise” simply hands Monsanto and Big Food corporations a complete victory.

Instead of on-package labels, the bill calls for companies to provide a website url, a QR code, a symbol or a phone number on the package that will send consumers on a wild goose chase to figure out what GMOs might be in their food.

This sham of a federal labeling scheme pre-empts any state law, robbing states of the right to adopt meaningful GMO labeling laws, as Vermont has done.

Added to that, the bill doesn’t even provide for any federal penalties for companies’ failure to comply. It excludes the most recent forms of genetic engineering, and it’s a total cave-in to Monsanto.

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