Once again, we face the end of another year and the beginning of a new session of the West Virginia Legislature. After working closely and cooperatively with the WV Department of Agriculture’s designated Dairy Specialist (Andrew Yost) over a five-month technical review period, I have revised our proposed West Virginia Farm-Fresh Raw Milk Act bill. Although I am continuing my efforts to coordinate with the Department’s attorney on their legal review, the time to submit the bill to our legislative sponsors has run short, and I felt obligated to pass it along to them to ensure re-introduction of the revised bill in the impending 2020 legislative session. I am pleased to report that Senator Dave Sypolt and Delegate Isaac Sponaugle have expressed to me their willingness to introduce our bill in their respective legislative chambers. This means we are now entering Round 2 (the second attempt) of the adoption process for our bill. If you’d like to read our bill, please e-mail me and I will send you a copy.
This is good news for our ongoing efforts to open sales of farm-fresh raw milk directly between dairy farmers and informed consumers. The coming year is an election year, and many elected officials will be seeking support for their re-elections, which gives us an opportunity to build support that might not be as forthcoming in a non-election year. My prior work experience in public policy tells me that elected officials are more willing to listen and seriously consider their positions on proposed legislation when they face a re-election campaign, because their opponents might choose to make the issues and needs the incumbent rejects part of their opposition campaign. If that situation does not work to our advantage in the current election season, it may bode well for us in the legislative session following the election, if the incumbents who oppose us lose or abandon their re-election bids. This is the subtle process by which our political system evolves, and it explains why those issues with determined and dedicated advocates often prevail over time.
While our cause faces considerable opposition from politically entrenched and well-funded lobbies, it is important to remember we only seek to be included within the Department of Agriculture’s long-standing policy of support for small family farms. As I have noted previously in my posts on our farm website, the rugged topography and limited arable land across our state makes modern, large-scale industrial farming practices very difficult if not impractical. Our heritage and land resources are far more conducive to small-scale family-owned and operated farms and homestead operations, which our initiative seeks to support. It seems incomprehensible to us that any program to encourage small and diverse family farms in today’s economically marginal market environment that casually ignores dairy operations could be effective. Yet, West Virginia remains one of the remaining 19 states that still officially prohibits open consumer sales of raw milk products. More’s the pity.
We continue to care for our two dairy goats that we have raised. Esmeralda, who we raised to be one of the foundation goats of our small dairy herd, has returned to our farm. She has grown to be a very respectable milking prospect, but she spends her days wandering solemnly around her barn and goat pens. I would love to bring her into production, but absent any prospect for unprocessed milk sales, there is little justification for the cost of breeding her. We wish to encourage your support for our efforts to remove this unjustifiable sales prohibition. Please contact us if you would be willing to submit a letter documenting your support. We have done all we can to get our bill introduced. There is nothing more we can do to influence its adoption, if we can’t generate meaningful public support from the consumers who will ultimately benefit. Our fate is now in your hands. Thanks for your continued support of our farming adventure. From all of us here at Peeper Pond Farm, we wish all of our loyal followers a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.