Yet another farmer faces fines for not following his state’s raw milk laws. From what I gather from the article, the farmer in question sought to avoid regulatory liability by using a cow-share arrangement to distribute dairy products to fellow members.

As I covered in my recent raw milk article in Cornell’s Small Farms Quarterly, the effectiveness of informal schemes which are designed to avoid pasteurization requirements are highly questionable. The legality of cow-share and other “moo-n shine” arrangements vary from state to state and they usually fail. Anyone who contemplates selling raw milk has to take these uncertainties into account and build them into a business and distribution plan. A comprehensive risk management analysis, especially for raw milk, must extend beyond product safety and production standards. Regulatory compliance is itself a form of risk management. It deserves the equal weight and attention as a HACCP plan or the good agricultural practices that a farmer adopts.

Raw milk engenders some very strong opinions from all sides. For every eager dairy producer scheming to circumvent the law, there is an equally zealous public health advocate or agricultural department inspector looking to hand out a hefty fine. A farmer may feel very earnestly that he or she has done nothing wrong by selling a raw dairy product, but there is a high probability a district attorney or state regulators will strongly disagree. If so, the fines are inevitable.

If you disagree with the law, that is fine, but tempting regulators with sketchy schemes is just about the worst form of advocacy there is. Failing to honestly assess, without bias, how the law may adversely view your agricultural activity is also bad business. It is certainly no way to bring about change in the law.