Snow is falling this morning, as I write this post. It is a soft, gentle snowfall that has dusted all the rooftops and sprinkled a light coating of sugar on the grassy surfaces. The low clouds and subtle, snowy haze that accompanies it casts a grey pall across our mountain landscape, reinforcing the disappointment I feel in having to write this post. As I joyfully announced in my January 25 website post, our West Virginia Farm Fresh Raw Milk Act bill was introduced into the 2019 Legislative Session as House Bill 2643. The intent of the bill is to remove our state’s final prohibition on unprocessed milk sales to allow consumer direct sales of fresh milk from small dairy farms. This is a goal I have been working to achieve since we sold our dairy goat herd in August 2017. We ultimately received active support for our legislative initiative from five House Delegates and one State Senator. Shortly after our bill was introduced into the House of Delegates, Senator Dave Sypolt introduced a concurrent bill (Senate Bill 471) into the Senate. However, the regular session of the West Virginia legislation ended on Saturday, March 10, and I subsequently learned that our bill was one of many that did not make it out of Committee before the deadline.
To his credit, Senator Sypolt, who chairs the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, tried to introduce a concurrent study resolution that would have established a joint House/Senate task force to study the bill before the 2020 Legislative Session begins. Unfortunately, that resolution also did not pass. That was not an unexpected outcome given the intense opposition we face to gain adoption of this bill, as I have thoroughly discussed in previous website posts. We always knew that success would not come easy.
While this means our bill will not be adopted in 2019, it does not mean it cannot be reintroduced next year. The last time a bill was introduced to open raw milk sales it took seven years of deliberation and reconsideration before the compromise Herd Shares bill was ultimately adopted in 2016. Even if it takes another three years to get our new bill adopted, it will have achieved swift passage by comparison. I am working with Senator Sypolt to discuss what our next move should be to improve its chances for passage the next time it is introduced.
I remain determined to pursue adoption of our bill. The survival of a meaningful small, family dairy presence in our state ultimately depends upon it. I was raised by dairy farmers, and they are my people. I will not abandon them just because the path I must follow is difficult. As I’ve explained many times before, farmers know they are not guaranteed success from the hard work they do, but they also know that you can’t expect to succeed if you are unwilling to work hard for it.
In the final analysis, we achieved a lot in our first year of determined work. We produced a draft bill that was in proper legal form for legislative introduction (without any paid, professional legal assistance), we built a solid core group of determined supporters representing a broad spectrum of interests, we managed to get a bi-partisan group of Delegates and Senators to introduce the bill, and we have prepared a strong argument and background data to defend it. We also managed to get attention from mainstream media outlets (newspapers, radio, and television) for our initiative. We can be proud of those accomplishments.
I wish to extend our sincere appreciation to the elected officials who placed their confidence in our effort this year. They include, Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (who introduced our bill into the house), Senator Dave Sypolt (who introduced our bill into the Senate), and Delegates John Paul Hott, Scott Cadle, Daryl Cowles, and Pat McGeehan, who courageously co-sponsored the House bill. I hope we can count on your continued support in 2020.
Now we must take the effort to the next level and work to secure support from more elected, state, and advocacy group officials for our cause. We also hope to secure more vocal public support from average citizens who demand consumer-direct sales of farm fresh foods to support preserving this time-honored farming lifestyle before it becomes extinct in West Virginia. To that end, I am rewriting my 2017 Peeper Pond Farm Story manuscript into a new, expanded book, Country Life at Peeper Pond Farm, that I will seek to get published later this year. We will also make digital file copies of the book available for sale during our appearances at the Grant County Farmers’ Market this year. I hope you will continue to follow our progress on this issue, and will lend your enthusiastic support for it. If you would like to know what you can do to help, please contact us here at Peeper Pond Farm. Our contact information can be obtained from our farm website, www.peeperpondfarm.com.