Sept. 16, 2013
Steadfast efforts to end the senseless prohibition of raw milk sales in Arkansas have finally been successful, at least in a somewhat limited sense. Residents living in the Natural State will now be able to purchase raw milk directly from the farms where it is produced, thanks to the recent passage of House Bill 1536. However, raw milk sales at farmers markets and retail stores will still be prohibited under the new law.
According to ArkansasOnline.com, Governor Mike Beebe recently signed into law HB 1536, also known as Act 1209, following its passage by the state’s General Assembly back in April. The bill will allow for the incidental sale of locally-produced raw milk directly from the farm, given that the farmer posts a sign at the entrance to the farm indicating that its milk products are not pasteurized or regulated by the state.
The new rule will also require that raw milk farmers affix standard labels to milk containers notifying customers that the milk is not pasteurized. These same farmers, whether they produce raw cow’s milk or goat’s milk, will be barred from selling more than 500 gallons of it per month, presumably an effort to keep as tight of a lid as possible on this growing segment of the grassroots dairy industry.
Previously, Arkansans wanting raw cow’s milk had to either bootleg their milk from nearby states with fewer authoritarian restrictions, or find a local farmer willing to gift it to them without official payment. Raw goat’s milk, on the other hand, had previously been legal for on-farm sales only, with the caveat that only 100 gallons of it be sold a month. That restriction will be increased to 500 gallons per month under HB 1536.
“Thank you Jesus, we don’t have to drive to another state and bootleg raw milk anymore,” wrote one commenter on a recent announcement posted at A Campaign for Real Milk, a project of The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). “This is a great day in Arkansas!”
Struggling Arkansas farmers will now have new opportunities to make a better living
Equally excited are the many small-scale farmers in Arkansas who will now have the opportunity to provide their customers with a product they have long been demanding, not to mention also have the chance to make a better living in the process. Mariah White of Summer Kitchen Family Farm near Fayetteville is one such farmer who is overjoyed that her family’s farm will now have the freedom to supply a growing demand and expand its income stream.
“We have people asking us all the time to sell them raw milk,” Mariah is quoted as saying to ArkansasOnline.com.
And Mariah is not alone — many local farmers from across the state say more and more people are looking for steady sources of raw milk these days, as they learn that the standard pasteurized variety lacks beneficial enzymes and bacteria that aid in digestion and assimilation. But now, many more of these informed individuals will have access to the raw variety, and struggling farmers everywhere will in turn be able to depend on a steadier source of income throughout the year.
“The beauty of this is it allows farmers to diversify with livestock,” says Ron Rainey, an associate professor and economist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. According to the latest available data, overall dairy production in Arkansas has dropped by an astounding 385 percent since 1997. “It will provide year-round income they can rely on.”
For a state-by-state breakdown of current raw milk laws across the country, be sure to check out this Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund color map:
Sources for this article include: