His answer? Its going to be a while.
The number of raw milk dairies in the state has more than doubled
since 2006, increasing from 10 to 27. But farmers who want to sell the
milk, which is not pasteurized and comes straight from the cow, face a
web of local and state regulations.
Now, the state is proposing new language that could add another
obstacle for farmers by firmly prohibiting people from picking up raw
milk for others.
It is legal under state law for farmers to sell raw milk if the customer comes to the farm to pick up the milk themselves.
But in recent years, customers have formed buying clubs, where one
member of a neighborhood or group picks up milk for everyone else.
The clubs are already illegal, said Agricultural Commissioner Scott
Soares. But at a public hearing on Monday, state regulators will
discuss language that would clarify the ban. Five buying clubs in the
state have also received cease-and-desist letters, Soares said.
Its happening at this particular moment because many of those
groups were starting to advertise for new customers online and were
essentially advertising that they were milk distribution businesses,
Advocates of raw milk say the move would hurt local farmers and
prevent customers who cannot travel to farms from getting their milk.
They tout the health benefits of the milk, which contains beneficial
bacteria and enzymes not found in pasteurized milk.
Youre more likely to get injured in a car on the way to pick up
your raw milk, then you are drinking the raw milk, said Winton
Pitcoff, coordinator of the Massachusetts Raw Milk Network, part of the
Northeast Organic Farming Association.
Some people cant drive, dont have time, (or) dont have cars,
Pitcoff said. It provides access to a whole population that wouldnt
otherwise have that access.
But regulators say the buying clubs could increase the risk that
milk would be mishandled. No one has gotten sick in the state from
drinking raw milk since 1999, in his memory, said Soares.
But last year, two Connecticut families filed a lawsuit against a
local dairy and Whole Foods store after three children became sick from
tainted raw milk sold at the store.
Unlike in Massachusetts, it is legal to sell raw milk at retail
stores in Connecticut and New Hampshire, Pitcoff said. In Vermont,
farmers can deliver the milk to customers.
But Massachusetts state regulators say that even one milk-related illness in the state could hurt the larger market.
Its indirectly related to public health, said Soares. If
someone gets sick, (there are) broader consequences on the milk market
But Pitcoff said the states stance makes little sense.
If (the Department of Agricultural Resources) trusts me to pick up
my own milk, they should trust me to ask someone else to do it for me,
Pitcoff said the new language could also damage farms by decreasing the number of customers.
Meanwhile, Dave Hanson has had enough trouble just trying to get a license.
Im not progressing as fast as I would like to, said Hanson. I
think when Im ready to go, theyre going to be very tough on me.
Hanson said he used to sell his milk wholesale to Cumberland Farms,
and always received compliments from the distributor about the quality
of his milk.
But as Hanson waits for permission, his customers will have to wait
for milk. Hanson said he has been drinking raw milk all his life and
has never gotten sick.
They do say it tastes different, but once you get used to it, you think it tastes better, he said.