In October 2014, Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick met with BCHA spokesperson Jackie Ingram. Minister Letnick was supportive of changing laws to legalize raw milk. His directive to the herdshare community was: “You have to find a way through it, not around it as you have been doing.” In other words, don’t look for loopholes — find a way to legalize this. He also said that the Ministry of Health’s food safety issues had to be addressed.
BCHA then requested meetings with the Ministry of Health, to present them with current information about raw milk and herdsharing, and to ask them: “What are the conditions under which legalization would be possible?” Ministry of Health staff met with BCHA in 2014 and 2015 and stated that the conditions for legalization were:
- We must provide scientific evidence that legalization will not increase outbreak rates.
- Farms cannot operate as “private buying clubs” to illegally sell raw milk.
- Agisters must take food safety training.
- Agisters must have on-farm food safety plans.
- New laws will contain bacterial testing standards.
Our “B.C. Fresh Milk Project” is addressing the first requirement. A new draft “Artisan Dairy Herdshares Regulation” (see below) under the Milk Industry Act addresses requirements 2 to 5, and could be the “way through it” that Minister Letnick directed us to find. It was developed in collaboration with agisters and consumers, and is based on existing laws in the U.S. and U.K. (See ProCon.org for a listing of current U.S. law).
Fact: Ten U.S. states (Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) have legalized herdshares while maintaining a ban on sales. It can be done in Canada as well! Raw milk can be legalized via herdsharing without the need to change Federal law.
The issue of public consultation. In 1988 when raw milk was first classified as a “health hazard” under Order-in-Council 822/1988, the government did not consult with the raw milk community, the taxpayers negatively impacted by this law. Until a public consultation takes place, this page is a “community consultation” of our own, by and for the herdshare community.
What benefits would legalization bring? Our herdshares would be free of the fear of receiving cease-and-desist orders threatening fines or jail time for simply existing. They would be able to operate openly as herdshares in other places do (such as this one in Kentucky). They could have an online presence and openly advertise for new members. The “black market” which includes commercial dairy farms distributing raw milk illegally will be decreased. And, agriculture in B.C. will grow, as herdshare farms can meet growing consumer demand for farm-fresh, unprocessed milk.
Milk Industry Act
Artisan Dairy Herdshares Regulation (DRAFT)
(Click to download an annotated PDF version – please read before commenting,)
- Application of regulation
- Herdshare agreements
- Ownership of products from livestock
- Certification of herdshare farms
- Food safety
- Bacterial testing standards
- Product recall and outbreak response
1 In this regulation
“Act” means the Milk Industry Act;
“agister” means a person hired by livestock owners to perform services related to the care and management of their animals;
“agistment” refers to the care of livestock on behalf of the owners of those animals;
“agistment agreement” refers to a written contractual relationship between a livestock owner and an agister;
“herdshare” refers to an arrangement involving fractional ownership of livestock by multiple owners and includes cowshares, goatshares, and sheepshares.
“inspector” means any inspector under the Act;
“livestock owner group” and “livestock owners” mean the members of a herdshare, collectively.
2 (1) This regulation applies to all herdshares within the Province of British Columbia.
(2) This regulation does not apply to livestock kept for the personal and family use of farm occupants or employees.
3 (1) Herdshare agreements must include evidence of legally valid and enforceable transfer of title, providing the purchaser with fractional ownership in an individual animal or in the herd.
(2) Livestock owners may organize as a cooperative, society, partnership, trust, or similar legal structure for purposes such as joint ownership of livestock and decision-making.
(3) Documentation provided to prospective livestock purchasers shall include:
(a) bill of sale and agistment agreement;
(b) current inventory of livestock, estimated total replacement value, and production figures of the herd; and
(c) maximum number of fractional ownership units that products will be divided between.
4 (1) Livestock owners are entitled to the products which are produced by their livestock, including meat, dairy, hides, wool, and related products and to make decisions regarding distribution of these products among members or as partial payment to the agister for his or her services.
(2) Products produced by the herd are the property of the livestock owners and are not being purchased or sold.
(3) Livestock owners may contract for delivery and processing services.
Certification of herdshare farms
5 (1) In accordance with section 4 of the Act, upon proof of compliance with this regulation an inspector may issue a certificate setting out that the farm is approved for the purpose of providing agistment services to a livestock owner group.
(2) Certification requirements shall include:
(a) successful completion of the Raw Milk Institute’s Risk Analysis and Management Planning (RAMP) on-farm food safety training program or equivalent program;
(b) successful completion of FOODSAFE Level 1 or its equivalent; and
(c) three consecutive milk sample test results that meet the standards detailed in section 7.
(3) The application for certification shall include:
(a) name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the agister;
(b) physical address of the farm where the herd is currently located;
(c) current livestock type and number of animals being milked;
(d) certificate or equivalent showing that the agister has successfully completed an on-farm food safety training program specific to the production of raw milk for direct consumption as per section 5(2)(a);
(e) on-farm food safety plans including a risk analysis and management plan (RAMP) and standard sanitary operating procedures (SSOP) as per section 6(1);
(f) foodborne disease outbreak response plan as per section 8(1); and
(g) milk sample test results or veterinarian’s certificate showing that the herd is free of Tuberculosis and Brucellosis.
6 (1) Each registered herdshare shall have on-farm food safety plans which include standard sanitary operating procedures (SSOP) and a risk analysis and management plan (RAMP).
(2) Milk must be cooled as follows
(a) if raw milk is placed into jars or into a milk cooling tank, the milk must be cooled to
(i) 10°C or less within one hour of commencing milking, and
(ii) above 0°C and below 4°C within 2 hours of completing milking;
(b) if raw milk is placed into a milk cooling tank that contains milk from a previous milking, the temperature of the combined milk must be
(i) 10°C or less at the time the raw milk is combined, and
(ii) reduced to above 0°C and below 4°C within one hour of completing milking.
(3) After milk is cooled in accordance with section 2, the milk must be maintained at a temperature above 0°C and below 4°C until picked up by livestock owners.
(4) A herdshare must ensure that livestock owners are aware of food safety procedures for consumer transport, storage, and handling of products.
7 (1) Milk for direct consumption shall be tested a minimum of once a month at a government-approved laboratory.
(2) Tests shall include total coliforms, standard plate count, Salmonella spp., E. coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter spp., and Listeria monocytogenes.
(3) Milk must meet the following microbiological standards:
(a) Standard plate count: <15,000 cfu per ml
(b) Total coliforms: < 10 cfu per ml
(4) Somatic cell count shall not exceed:
(a) for milk from cows and water buffalo: < 400,000 per ml
(b) for milk from goats and sheep: < 1,500,000 per ml
(5) Test results shall be provided to livestock owners.
(6) The Ministry may set standards regarding data collection procedures and public reporting of test results.
(7) A boil-milk notice will be issued when a milk sample tests positive for pathogens and will remain in effect until the milk tests negative and the agister has identified and successfully addressed the cause of contamination.
8 (1) Herdshares shall create response plans detailing procedures for alerting livestock owners about product recalls and boil-milk notices.
(2) A foodborne disease outbreak which has been reported under section 10 of the Public Health Act falls under the jurisdiction of that Act.
Before this is presented to the Minister, we invite your comments and questions, below. (First though, please read the annotated PDF version in case your questions are answered there.) Discussion will be moderated.