Producer begins providing raw milk information
An Oregon dairy farmer has begun providing online information about her raw milk after the Oregon Department of Agriculture decided to stop enforcing a ban on raw milk advertising.
The agency has settled a lawsuit with Christine Anderson, a farmer from McMinnville, Ore., who challenged Oregon’s prohibition against advertising raw milk in court.
The ODA decided not to defend the ban after Oregon Department of Justice officials said its case was weak, said Bruce Pokarney, the agency’s communications director.
“It was pretty clear to us there would be some constitutional issues and it didn’t seem like the right thing to fight it,” he said.
It’s unclear whether the settlement will spur much more raw milk advertising in the state, as ODA officials hadn’t made the ban a high priority before the lawsuit, he said.
“We haven’t gone out and really looked for this,” Pokarney said.
As part of the deal, the ODA will also ask the Oregon legislature in 2015 to revoke the law that bans raw milk advertising.
Anderson said she was surprised by the speedy end to the lawsuit, which she filed in federal court last November.
“I was expecting a longer battle,” she said.
The settlement hasn’t prompted Anderson to launch a large-scale advertising campaign, as her farm already has a waiting list of customers who want to buy raw milk, she said.
However, the deal has allowed her to publish information on her company website about sanitary practices, milk testing and prices.
“That answers a lot of questions about us, and that’s helpful for me,” Anderson said, noting that she also plans to put up a sign for her Cast Iron Farm.
Michael Bindas, her attorney, said the settlement is the first victory in a broader initiative aimed at fighting unconstitutional food regulations in the U.S.
“This is an ongoing campaign,” said Bindas.
The Institute of Justice, which employs Bindas, is also litigating against a Florida city that banned front-yard vegetable gardens and a Minnesota law that restricts selling homemade baked and canned goods.
Oral arguments in the Florida case are scheduled for March 11 on the city’s motion to dismiss, he said.
Bindas said he also expects Minnesota to ask for dismissal.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture “should be applauded” for settling the case and not enforcing the advertising ban, he said. “This was an unusually quick resolution of the case.”
Even so, farmers who sell raw milk still face restrictions in Oregon.
Under state law, raw milk can only be sold directly to consumers onsite at the dairy. No more than two producing cows and nine producing sheep or goats are allowed to be kept at the site.