The Sham of Shamrock Dairy, The Shame of VA Economic Development Partnership

by Bernadette Barber

The state of Virginia has brought an Arizona- based “family-owned” Dairy to Augusta County.  Shamrock Dairy is a 10,000 cow CAFO operation ( Cow Warehouse) in the desert of Arizona. It is indeed family owned, but how many family dairy farms do you know of that could build a 50 million dollar processing plant? Shamrock’s sham is that it perpetuates the image of what Americans perceive a family dairy might be- maybe a quaint independent operation with green fields, open space, cows contently chewing their cud in dappled sunshiney pastures?  Little children dashing about while siblings do farm chores?Shamrock-Dairy

No, a 10,000 cow dairy in the desert is neither natural nor sustainable.  It is an industrial  ( not familial) operation.  How many family members run day to day milking? Do they push a button, is it purely robotic?  An operation like that also eats alot of taxpayer subsidies. and produces food like substance, that is far inferior to real, raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized locally purchased milk.

Unbeknownst to many Virginians, they unluckily footed the bill to bring Shamrock Dairy here. Virginia Economic Development Partnership gave both Augusta County and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership $250,000.00 to broker the deal with Shamrock Dairy. Governor McDonnell also gave to  Shamrock another $50,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Fund.    A bill creating that fund was introduced by both  Del. Steve Landes and Senator Bill Stanley and passed in 2012.  Its purpose was to  lure Big Agricultural  processing  operations to VA if they would use  atleast 30% of “Virginia Grown” product.  Shamrock is also eligible to recieve Road Access Funding from the Department of Transportation.    The Virginia Jobs Investment Program, will provide funding and will service the company’s training and re-training activities.  Shamrock has and will recieve much more than $300,000 from the Virginia taxpayer- who is denied the ability to process and sell their own dairy products.

The shame therein of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, whose purpose is to create jobs- is that they incentivize foreign or alien companies ( those not in VA) to build, with taxpayers money.  When they tout  “Virginia is open for Business”  they only mean big business, because the agricultural food processing field is so entrenched in red tape and fed tape-Virginia couldn’t even feed herself nutritiously if she wanted.  The fact is, Virginia does want to feed herself and keep the profits thereof. One only need to see the burgeoning presence of farmers markets, cow share operations, and food buying clubs.   The problem and shame of the VEDP is that it should be looking into allowing VA, herself, to create her own independent jobs by examining the costly burdensome regulations that prevent the opportunity. Legislators need to give farmers and families the freedom to process their own foods to sell direct to their neighbors and communities.  Small scale production is very safe. And for over 400 years up until less than 40 years ago, its what sustained her.

There are thousands of Virginians who would joyfully and safely run a family dairy and sell direct to their customers, if it were legal.  But Virginia state law does not allow for the direct sale of “raw” milk.  It must be sold to a licensed processor, such as Shamrock Dairy.

Next time you see “welcome news of  agricultural jobs creation”, know that it is a sham, because it is quite possible your tax dollars paid dearly for it, and a shame that legislators deny you the legal framework to create your own job, profiting from your own labor on the farm.

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