Meeting with Agriculture Minister Lana Popham

On February 26th 2018, BCHA and Raw Milk Institute  representatives had the pleasure to meet with the Minister of Agriculture and MLA for Saanich South, the Honourable Lana Popham to discuss the legalization of herdsharing in B.C.  The Minister of Health  was also invited to the meeting, but did not attend.

Many in the herdshare community remember Minister Popham from her visits to herdshare farms while she was the Opposition Agriculture Critic and her presence at the 2011 raw milk demonstration at the Legislature (see video here), where she and NDP MLAs Mike Farnsworth, Nick Simons, and Jenny Kwan stood in solidarity with herdshare members and farmers.

At this meeting, we presented information about:

  • the health benefits of raw milk, addressing official Ministry of Health statements that that there are no health benefits of consuming fresh milk rather than  pasteurized (cooked) milk;
  • raw milk sales by commercial dairy farmers, illustrating how the current law is ineffective in preventing a flourishing “black market”;
  • outbreak rates in the U.S., illustrating how the Raw Milk Institute‘s on-farm food safety training program has had an impact;
  • a preliminary report from the BC Fresh Milk Project — laboratory evidence of the efficacy of RAWMI training for the production of clean raw milk (proof that the current law is obsolete!); and
  • a proposal for legalization incorporating the requirements stipulated by the previous BC government, amending the Health Hazards Regulation to exempt micro-dairy herdshares certified under a new regulation to be passed under the Milk Industry Act.

Mark McAfee is the CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy, a large milk farm in California which is now the #3 brand (by volume) of organic milk in the U.S.   OPDC sells over a million gallons of raw milk ever year.   Mark traveled up from California so that he could provide information and answer questions about the legal raw milk market in his state and the Raw Milk Institute.   Mark showed samples of his product line, and Katharina brought a jar of farm-fresh milk sourced from a BCFM participant farm plus organic cookies from True Grain Bakery in Cowichan Bay.

Included in this was a binder containing printouts of 42 peer-reviewed scientific studies on the health benefits of raw milk, prefaced with this summary list.

The Minister and her staff listened to our presentations and asked questions.  One staff person said that the B.C. Ministry of Health cites the Federal government as the reason why B.C. law cannot change.  This would likely be the Federal law banning sales, but herdshare agreements which transfer livestock ownership to consumers address this issue.  Currently, eleven U.S. states allow herdsharing while still banning sales, so it can be done in Canada too. In addition, the current law in BC is the only one of its kind in Canada, and was passed in 1988, whereas the Federal law was passed in 1991. The two laws are unrelated.

We hope that there can be further meetings with the B.C. government so we can continue dialogue and provide the additional research which we did not have time to present at this one meeting.

The B.C. government has not made any announcements regarding legalization, but news and updates will be posted on this website as soon as they are available.  (For summaries of previous meetings with the BC Government, see the “BC Status Report for March 2016” and past BCHA newsletters.)

A big thank you to Mark who volunteered his time and travelled up from California to attend this meeting, plus to meet with UBC researchers and to give a public presentation; to Dr. Whitehead who presented a summary of peer-reviewed studies and her research on outbreak trends; and to the volunteers who hosted Mark during this trip as well as his trip to BC in 2014 to provide farmer training and public education opportunities.