Legislature’s focus is askew

North Carolina leads the nation in loss of farmland this century. In our mountains, where escalating land prices and depressed farm profits are pushing family farms out of business, local farmers and the rural communities they support need opportunities to diversify their income. Raw milk is one such opportunity, so it is a shame that your article [“Raw Deal: Consumers Unite to Overturn N.C. Ban on Unpasteurized Milk,” June 20] asserted the conventional public-health wisdom about the safety of raw milk instead of exploring the underlying agricultural issues.

The real question presented by the health, political and economic facts surrounding raw milk is whether North Carolina will actively help family farms survive, or continue to stand on the sidelines while farmland is gobbled up by industrial agriculture and developers’ bulldozers.

Health risks are inherent in our food system, whether the food source is an industrial dairy, a roadside vegetable stand or a deli counter. In most of that system, we impose reasonably effective risk-management controls. Those controls are never 100 percent effective, and as a society we have shown we are comfortable with that level of risk. But in assessing health threats, our government and business leaders show a bias in favor of industrial agriculture. In fact, we can successfully apply more strict standards to small-farm production than [the standards] with which we ask the industrial-ag establishment to comply.

The prohibition on raw milk needlessly denies family farms an economic opportunity. It is unfortunate that our political leaders are debating the arcane legal point of “cow sharing,” instead of [debating] how we create an effective raw-milk regulatory regime (such as the one that exists in South Carolina) that serves the health of the public and of our family farms.

— Roland McReynolds
Executive Director
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

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