Maine’s Licensed Raw Milk Farms

Maine is one of the 43 U.S. states which provide consumers with legal access to raw milk.  Unlike in B.C., raw milk farmers and consumers in Maine live without fear of penalties of up to three million dollars or three years’ incarceration  (B.C.’s Public Health Act, section108, the penalty for “causing a health hazard”).

In the State of Maine, raw milk farms are licensed and raw milk is regulated. Raw milk is readily available to consumers from farms, at farmers markets, and in grocery stores.  Farms openly advertise (examples:  Tide Mill Organic Farm and Winter Hill Farm).  They can produce value-added products such as raw milk cheese, butter, and yogurt.  In Maine, raw milk is not a “hot button” topic that governments will not go near.  In fact, the government of Maine provides a PowerPoint presentation advising farmers on how to get licensed and helpful guidelines for licensed raw milk farmers.

Maine has an estimated population in 2017 of 1,350,200 and  currently has 74 licensed raw milk farms.  There were only 10 licensed farms in 2003 – and this chart shows how consumer demand for raw milk has grown in the state (and similarly in the U.S. in general):

If British Columbia had a proportional number of raw milk farms to population,  it would have 264 licensed raw milk farms. 

Despite a determined campaign over the last 10 years by the public, asking for legalization, currently B.C. has zero licensed farms, and the laws detail severe penalties for raw milk distribution. (This is not stopping the many herdshares currently flourishing in B.C.  Because the B.C. government has repeatedly refused to legalize raw milk, herdshares have no other option, no alternative but to operate in violation of the current law.)

There is always some concern in places where raw milk is illegal, that legalization will put farms out of business.   This leads some farmers to believe that they are better off in a “black market,” living with the risk of prosecution.  However, Maine shows that farms can flourish under a regulatory system which legalizes raw milk.  It also provides an example to government that raw milk can be legalized without civilization ending.

Data Sources:   Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry; Statistics Canada; Population of America 2017; Maine Dairy Program: How to get a Dairy License (PowerPoint)