ARLINGTON, Virginia, December 12, 2011 – Advocates for small farmers and for the consumers who patronize them are on a streak of activism. Last week, some 200 people turned out on a cold Thursday for a Chicago rally to advocate for the right to purchase raw milk and in support of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit against the FDA. They cheered the arrival of a group of “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” who crossed the Illinois state line after having purchased raw milk in Wisconsin. The riders then engaged in interstate commerce by selling the milk to a few purchasers before distributing the rest to the crowd.
A dominant refrain of the rally was Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik’s question to the crowd: “Who owns your body?” Speakers questioned the right of the government to restrict the liquids Americans consume and spoke out against government action against small family farms.
Rally speaker and Raw Milk Revolution author David Gumpert posted on his blog, The Complete Patient, that the FDA’s response to this rally was unlike a November rally outside of Washington, DC. In contrast to that hands-off response, the Chicago rally coincided with the FDA going to federal court to begin filing papers seeking an injunction against Pennsylvania Amish farmer Dan Allgyer. The goal? To ban Allgyer from selling raw milk to members of a Maryland food club. And in Wisconsin, criminal charges were filed against raw dairy farmer Vernon Herschberger.
Rally organizers said they will continue to protest assaults on farmers and restrictions on consumer choices. “You may not get between my children and me,” said organizer and mother of five Liz Reitzig, who pledged to continue activism until the government stops harassing farmers.
Tomorrow, December 13, members of Congress are invited to a screening of the documentary Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms, which tells the story of several small farmers whose farms were raided by the government at great taxpayer expense and often for no clear reason. Sponsored by D.C. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D, ME) and Ed Perlmutter, (D, CO), and Congressman Ron Paul, (R, TX), the screening will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Orientation Theater North.
The film was made by mother of four Kristin Canty, who saw her son, now 16, go from “allergic to everything” and constantly ill as a young child of four to healthy and strong when she began including raw milk in his diet. Initially reluctant to embark on making a film, she felt strongly that the public needed to be aware of what was happening to small farmers – and to consumers’ rights – at the hands of the FDA and USDA. The film premiered in June and completes its second run in Chicago today.
This past week also marked the launch of the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI), which aims to serve as an education and outreach tool and to provide training on best practices as well as to “encourage, promote and undertake research” to inform its programs. The group’s mission is to expand access to raw milk, and RAWMI’s administrators are already busy working with legislators and agencies, including the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Congresswoman Pingree on the “Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act,” H.R. 3286, which as 60 co-sponsors in the House and has also been introduced in the Senate.
Chicago rally video is available at JustinTV
Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Her writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. A former high school English teacher, Jessica is mother to a five-year-old son and a baby girl. She is passionate about holistic health and well-being and is a leader of a chapter of Holistic Moms Network.
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