A Model Regulation to Legalize Herdsharing in BC

Members of the herdshare community:   We thank you for your input into the wording of this draft regulation.  Your suggestions have been incorporated into the updated draft of this “Artisan Dairy Herdshares Regulation” below.


Background

In 1988 when Social Credit Health Minister Peter Dueck (MLA Abbotsford) created the regulation which classified raw milk as a “health hazard” (Order-in-Council 822/1988), his government did not consult with the raw milk community, the taxpayers negatively impacted by the new law.  Over the next 26 years, the government ignored the raw milk community’s requests for legalization.

Finally in October 2014,  Liberal 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.

The BC Government’s Conditions for Legalization

BCHA requested meetings with the Ministry of Health (see the “Advocacy Log“) and met with Ministry staff in late 2014 and early 2015.  BCHA presented them with up-to-date information about raw milk and herdsharing, listened to their concerns about raw milk, showed them evidence that raw milk can be safely produced, and asked:  “What are the conditions under which legalization would be possible?”   Ministry staff stated that the conditions for legalization of herdsharing were:

  1. We must provide scientific evidence that legalization will not increase outbreak rates. 
  2. Farms cannot operate as “private buying clubs” to illegally sell raw milk in violation of Federal law.
  3. Agisters must take food safety training. 
  4. Agisters must have on-farm food safety plans.
  5. New laws will contain bacterial testing standards.

Meeting the Five Conditions

Condition 1:   The recent article “Recent Trends in Unpasteurized Fluid Milk Outbreaks, Legalization, and Consumption in the U.S. ” shows that there is NO correlation between legalization and outbreak rates.  Outbreak rates in the US have declined while legalization and consumption rates have both increased.  In addition, the “B.C. Fresh Milk Project”  provides evidence from independent laboratory testing that proves not only that raw milk can be produced pathogen-free, but that milk from RAWMI-trained farms differs from milk from conventional dairy farms.

Conditions 2 to 5:  Developed in collaboration with agisters and consumers, a new  draft “Artisan Dairy Herdshares Regulation” (see below) under the Milk Industry Act addresses conditions 2 to 5, and could be the “way through it” that Minister Letnick directed us to find.   It is based on RAWMI Common Standards as well as existing laws in the U.S. and U.K.  (See ProCon.org for a listing of current U.S. law).

Fact:  Eleven U.S. states (Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, 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.   See this page for details on the “Herdshare States.”

The Benefits of Legalization for Herdshare Farms

The herdshare community is broad-based, grass-roots, and diverse.   BCHA thus cannot speak for all herdshares in B.C.  Some herdshares are opposed to legalization, as they fear that government-imposed costs and rules will drive them out of business.  However, the B.C. Herdshare Association’s position is that legalization must be affordable for herdshares of all sizes, even the smallest.   A good litmus test might be:  “Can the farmer starting a new herdshare by selling shares in their one “family cow” or herd of a few goats afford the cost?”

Legalization will benefit herdshares.  Farms would be free to openly advertise without fear of receiving cease-and-desist orders threatening fines or jail time.   They could have an online presence – see this Kentucky herdshare’s website.   The current “black market” where commercial dairy farms illegally sell untested raw milk will shrink (yes, a commercial dairy farm in BC was busted in 2015 for selling raw milk).   As the herdshare sector grows, it will provide more jobs to British Columbians.  And it will boost BC’s dairy sector  economy:   Agriculture in B.C. will grow as herdshare farms can meet growing consumer demand for farm-fresh, unprocessed milk.   Eventually, once herdshares have proven that raw milk can be safely produced, then governments will consider legalizing sales.

Returning Regulation to the Ministry of Agriculture

When the Milk Industry Act was first passed in 1956, it contained a clause whereby the Minister could choose to certify raw milk farms (see PDF of the original Act):

“4. Dairy-farms producing milk for human consumption in fluid form shall be classified as:—
(a) Approved raw-milk dairy-farms:
(b) Approved fluid-milk dairy-farms.
“The dairy-farms in each of such classes shall comply with standards for each class provided by regulations hereunder; and upon proof of such compliance and compliance with the provisions of this Act and of the “Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act” and regulations under the said Acts applicable to such farm, a dairy-farmer may be issued a certificate of approval under the hand of the Minister or such official as may be designated by him that such farm is approved in the class and for the sale of milk for the purpose stated in the certificate.”

This certification of raw milk farms was removed from the Milk Industry Act in 1996, following pressure from the Federal government which had banned raw milk sales in 1991.  However, section 4 of the Milk Industry Act still provides for the certification of farms.    The Minister of Agriculture has the power to approve Regulations to define and set criteria for different classes of dairy farms.  Minister could choose to approve a Regulation under the Milk Industry Act that would create a new class of farm, a “certified herdshare farm”, distinct from an “approved dairy farm” licensed under the Milk Industry Standards Regulation.

Notes: 

  1. The Minister of Agriculture could also choose to direct the BC Milk Marketing Board to create a new class of specialty quota for raw milk farms, thus placing it under supply management; however, the BCMMB currently only has authority to regulate cow milk, not goat or sheep milk.
  2. As an alternative, the Minister could also choose to regulate herdshares under the Natural Products Marketing Act and establish an independent “artisan dairy herdshares commission” under that Act.
  3. The Minister could also choose to legalize sales.   Quebec set a precedent in 2008 when it legalized the sales of un-aged raw cheese (see PDF), the sale of which is illegal under the same Federal regulation which bans fluid raw milk sales (Federal Food and Drug Regulations).
  4. This draft regulation also aligns with our position:   New requirements MUST be affordable by even the smallest herdshare — one cow or a few goats — as this is how most herdshares start up.
  5. No matter which alternative is chosen by the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Health would still need to amend section 2(a) of the Public Health Act, Health Hazards Regulation, to exempt herdshares certified under the new Regulation

Milk Industry Act

Artisan Dairy Herdshares Regulation (DRAFT)

(Updated:  April 6, 2018 with input from BC farmers and consumers.  Download PDF here.)

Contents

  1. Definitions
  2. Application of regulation
  3. Herdshare agreements
  4. Ownership of products from livestock
  5. Certification of herdshare farms
  6. Food safety
  7. Bacterial testing standards
  8. Product recall and outbreak response

Definitions

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.

 Application of regulation

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) Farms certified under this Regulation are exempted from the Milk Industry Standards Regulation Regulation.

Herdshare agreements

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 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;
(b) agistment agreement;
(c) current inventory of livestock and estimated total replacement value; and
(d) maximum number of fractional ownership units that products will be divided between.

Ownership of products from livestock

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.

Food safety

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.

Bacterial testing standards

7  (1) Milk for direct consumption shall be tested a minimum of once per 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.

Product recall and outbreak response

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.


Questions or suggestions about this proposal ?   Email contact@bcherdshare.org .