Tag Archives: Lobbyists

I carried your voice

By Bernadette Barber www.virginiafooedfreedom.org

Dear friends, I represented your voice in the House Agriculture Subcommittee in Richmond, VA  on  Monday, February 2nd, 2015, whichVa Captial was Chaired by Delegate Danny Marshall, (R-14).  House Bill 1290   was introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58).  It is the third time the Food Freedom Act has been introduced in the General Assembly. Delegate Marshall made it clear he knows the issue and did not want more time on it. It was videotaped so the people can see the proceedings and how each member considered the bill, what questions were asked by those members and how they voted.

When Delegate Bell introduced the bill, he made the case that although most everyone shops at major grocery stores, many people would like the opportunity to purchase directly from a food artisan and we should be able to make that responsible decision. He made three points. One was that small producers should not be impeded by over burdensome regulation, two that consumers should have the right to choose via caveat emptor, and three, Virginia was founded on small farms who sold  locally.

Dwayne McIntyre, farmer, father of five and chairman of Russell county republican party was the first speaker. He stated that his testimony last year was on liberty. This year he chose common sense as a theme and used examples of common food items that are currently purchased that are deemed as potentially dangerous, but still available for sale requiring only a label. Among those items were steaks, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, peanut butter, and honey. He mentioned all his children were raised on raw milk.

I spoke next and I addressed the issues of raw milk and the federal meat inspection program’s cooperative agreement with the state. Knowing the VA chapter of the American Academy of Pediatric Association’s lobbyist would bring up misinformation about raw milk, I shared the story of the healing of my own son, who for the first four years of his life was heavily medicated for allergies and spent too many times in the emergency room for febrile seizures. When he was four years old, I took his health into my own hands and got him on raw milk and he since has been allergy free for four years, off all medication, not since been to a hospital or even a doctor. He is that healthy.

The final point I made addressed the false claim I knew would be made by the opposition – that the passage  of the food freedom act would  jeopardize the cooperative agreement the state has with the USDA on the Federal Meat  Inspection Program. Since meat processing is  controlled by the federal government, all slaughter and primary processing are done in inspected facilities. Foods being made for sale in home kitchens would have to have meat that came from an inspected facility.

Bernedette and Holder

Bernadette and Holder Trumbo

The next person that was allowed to speak was Holder Trumbo, a supervisor from  Fauquier County.  He brought with him a resolution passed by the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors in support of the Food Freedom Act. He made an excellent appeal for the small producer, even though he owns a grocery store.  He knows the Food Freedom Act will benefit all farmers and citizens.

Industry hacks

Those who oppose your food freedom. They look like a happy bunch don’t they?

Farm Bureau’s lobbyist,  Lindsay Reames, VA Agribusiness Council’s  Brad Copenhaver and  Virginia State Dairymen’s Association’s Eric Paulson  all spoke in opposition to the bill.  The major objection was the raw milk.  Lindsay Reames made the point that it was because of Farm Bureau that the local food movement exists.  She used the wrong causation, it was from a rejection of the  licensed,  industrially processed globalized  foods that farm bureau promotes, that the local foods movement  has sprung.

Thomas Massie,  a representative for Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, who could not argue the meat inspection issue, said he had concerns about the way animals were raised. Dressed in a white lab coat,  Dr. Bartle, a member of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics  spoke against the bill citing  CDC statistics. After testimony was heard, Del. Charles Poindexter, (R-09) made a motion to table the bill, Del. Barry Knight (R-81) seconded the motion. Del. Will Morefield (R-03) was the only delegate to object to the tabling (killing) of the bill.

The next bill of Food Freedom interest was the Three Cow exemption, hb1461, also known as the Raw Milk bill.  Del Rick Morris (R-64)  introduced it. He spoke of how in 1948 VA code allowed for a three cow exemption so farmers could sell direct. In 1950 when the code was rewritten, the exemption was omitted.  As a part of his testimony, Rick drank a glass of Raw milk provided by his constituent Micah Beachy. He

Del. Morris and Micah Beachy

Del. Morris and Micah Beachy

shared that when he was a child, he would ride his bike to the neighboring dairy farm, fill a jug from the tank and leave a quarter in return.

Micah Beachy was the first to speak. He passed out folders to each delegate that held statistical information and studies on raw milk. He had brought half pint jars of raw milk from his own cow that were carefully labeled and gave one to each member of the subcommittee.  He also brought a half gallon jar of it to share with the crowd which was poured into cups, passed around  and drank during the meeting.  He specifically offered some to Eric Paulson, who is known for not trusting the raw milk from his own dairy’s bulk tank.

Mr. Beachy cited many statistics and studies in favor of raw milk.  He brought up the fact that he is a member of Farm Bureau and that Farm Bureau does not speak for him and the commercial dairy farmers he knows about this issue. He also said that we are in a peaceful food revolution that this issue is not going away.

Christine Solem, a twenty-five-year veteran of the raw milk and local foods movement was brief in her testimony in favor of the bill. She said that although she was no longer milking and seeking to sell, she was 71 years old and seeking to find good raw milk to keep her bone density and longevity.

Joanna Moyer spoke next and was quite eloquent in her testimony, also reiterating the position that although she is a member of Farm Bureau, they do not speak for her on this issue. Joanna is the milkmaid in her family and wants to be an entrepreneur and stay on the farm, making artisan dairy foods. She stated that historically her mountainous region of VA which is very favorable to grazing animals and dairy farming was a lucrative sideline for many diversified farms and helped families keep cash flow in hard times.

Eric Paulson of the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association  spoke against the bill.  He claimed  to the House Subcommittee on Agriculture stating  breaking news on the CDC website on reported deaths from raw milk.  Upon further investigation, there were none.

Again, after testimony, Del.  Charles Poindexter, (R-09) made a motion to table the bill, and Del. Barry Knight (R-81) seconded the motion. Del. Will Morefield ( R-03) was the only delegate to object to the tabling of the bill.

A video of the hearing  can be seen here on our youtube channel http://bit.ly/1zfX4Nv

Please stay tuned for a Food Policy Legislative Workshop that will be held this summer. Thank you so much for following this issue and promoting Food Freedom.

Bernadette Barber and her husband Gary own and operate Tall Trees Farm in the Northern Neck. They view themselves as stewards of God’s green earth and conduct their farm in that light. Following the design of creation their cattle graze in lush verdant pastures; their hogs roam freely in the woods; their chickens and turkeys chase bugs and aerate the soil. She picked up her love for farming from her father who beat leukemia with an organic garden.


LIVE, Food In the Lobby Day – Richmond, Va

By Matthew French
Once a year, Richmond is flooded with the baser sort. No, I’m not talking about theFood Freedom Logo return of our delegates for the first day of the legislative session, I’m talking about Lobby Day.
True, we are here to lobby for a bill, at least the Food Freedom Act won’t cost the taxpayer anything and won’t rob you of any freedoms.
I will be updating this post throughout the day for those who could not make it but would like to be kept in the know. I will add a timestamp so you can keep up with the latest.
You can also follow the hashtag #foodinthelobby on Twitter for
the latest.

3:30 pm – Meeting with Del. Pillion went well. He confirmed his support for HB 1290.

3:00 pm – We are trying to confirm that HB1290 will skip to full committee.

1:30 pm – Del. Will Morefield has committed to co-patronage of the Food Freedom Act.

10:00 am– The subcommittee meeting hearing the merits of HJ519 is over. Farm Bureau, Virginia Dairyman’s Association, and Virginia Agribusiness Counsel spoke in opposition to the amendment. The industrial Ag groups used the same old worn out lines. The highlight came towards the end when Rep. David Ramadan said, “I ain’t buying it. I grew up on raw milk.” We have a video we will share soon.

Update: You can see the video of Del. David Ramadan here.

8:30 am – Subcommittee meeting on hj519 constitutional amendment “Right to Aquire Food” is getting under way.

Matthew French is a farmer in southwest Virginia. He and his family operate their 200-year old farm where they raise pastured poultry, free-range pigs, grass-fed lamb and a variety of vegetables. You can find more from him at www.thefrenchfamilyfarm.com

Farm Bureau Is Bad People

By Matthew French
Likely in life you have met a person who, at first, seemed to be a great individual. You hung out with them, you had them over to dinner, you even took in a baseball game together. When times got tough for them you helped them out a little. But the more you were around them something nagged at you. Somewhere in the back of your mind you knew something wasn’t right. Over time, it was becoming clear that they weren’t, as we say, good people.

As I get older, and I hope a little wiser, I like to think I’m getting better at spotting the bad eggs of this world earlier. It’s not easy though, and I still sometimes need the help of another pair of eyes. Someone who has seen the not so pretty side of

How Farm Bureau works

How Farm Bureau works


Farm Bureau is one of those bad eggs. Growing up in an agricultural community Farm Bureau is part of it through and through. Every month a bill comes from them. Every month a magazine shows up in the mailbox. Every year you attend the annual banquet. It becomes ingrained in you that Farm Bureau is on the side of small farmers, just like us, all across the state.
But Farm Bureau is anything but for the small farmer and definitely not on the side of the consumer. They have stood in the way of many different bills that would have made it easier for farmers to do business. For a long time, they stood in the way of the Boneta Bill which protected farmers property rights.
No, Farm Bureau is not a friend of the small direct to consumer farm.
Lately, their target has been the Virginia Food Freedom Act. Last year they actively lobbied against the bill. On the day of the vote in the subcommittee, they stood with the delegation of opposition. Yes, they stood with those opposed to farmers being able to produce and sell more food to their customers.
One of those that spoke in opposition said that if that bill had passed that farmers would be slaughtering their cattle on the side of the road, hanging them from front loaders, and selling the cuts to people as they passed by. Farm Bureau aligned themselves with people who believe that farmers are so stupid that they don’t even understand basic food safety and that consumers are so stupid that they would buy from stupid farmers.
That’s right, Farm Bureau thinks farmers are stupid. Some friend, right?
But hold on it gets better. Last year my father attended the annual Farm Bureau Banquet. After all the cursory “look at how great Farm Bureau is” speeches and bragging about the legislation that they helped pass (one of which was the Boneta Bill), my father cornered the state Farm Bureau representative and asked him a few questions. One of the questions he asked was how come Farm Bureau was not supporting the Virginia Food Freedom Act. Would you believe he told my dad they were supporting it!
This was news to us. They have been one of our biggest detractors. Earlier last year they basically walked out of the Food Freedom Taskforce meetings without even making an offer. So now they are for the bill?
After many, many, phone calls, we were informed that the representative had misspoken. I personally believe this was a continuation of the deception they spin that they are for the small farmer.
If you are a member you had better be a good little submissive one. Don’t fall too far out of lock step or you may find yourself looking for insurance. I have heard several stories from across the state of farmers losing their insurance for asking questions at Farm Bureau meetings. And other stories of farmers losing their coverage for selling direct to consumers after years of coverage through Farm Bureau (Half way down the post is where they mention losing coverage https://www.facebook.com/InTheoryFarm/posts/894904803871699 ).
It took me some time, but I realized that Farm Bureau was not my friend. They are not on my side. No, my friends, Farm Bureau is not on the side of small farmers.
They are bad people.

Matthew French is a farmer in southwest Virginia. He and his family operate their 200-year old farm where they raise pastured poultry, free-range pigs, grass-fed lamb and a variety of vegetables. You can find more from him at www.thefrenchfamilyfarm.com

Appreciation for Legislators, Education for Constituents

by Bernadette Barber

This will be an interesting fall,  educating people on the Virginia Food Freedom Act and on how the agricultural system works.

I think it will be much easier than I thought, with a news aggregate of Virginia Public Access Project, I get some pretty interesting articles with Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore’s quotes along with some select politicians and of course, Farm Bureau’s take on their version of Agriculture.

As many of you know The Virginia Food Freedom Act has been introduced in the general assembly twice, and previous to that, my delegate, Margaret Ransone, was aware of it and although promised that she would introduce it, chose not to at the last minute or at least strung me along, until the last minute. The bill would help many small farmers because the profit is in the processing.  If small farmers have a government enemy, it’s the Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture.  Farm Bureau  would have you believe it’s the Environmental Protection Agency.  They say that because they want to keep the corn and bean subsidies, and keep Big Foods control on the processing.  The profits for them are in the stock investment that the insurance company holds, not the risk targets policy holders are.

The latest story from VPAP is from the Progress Index covering a cook out in Dinwiddie.  For the Secretary of Agriculture to attend the event at Mr. Blaha’s farm,  it must be a very important event or at least one more opportunity  to get out the state /Farm Bureau propaganda.  Mr. Blaha received over a quarter million dollars from your tax dollars.  Parties like his are part of an elaborate, yet little known  system of tax dollars and awards systems from the state, “Century Farms” and industry “Farmer of the Year”  or  “Legislator of the Year.”  Mr. Blaha is also president of Dinwiddie Farm Bureau. 

This story  entitled  “Whose side is Farm Bureau on?”  gets it right when it comes to what the issue is.   Farm Bureau would like everyone to believe the EPA’s “overreach”  surrounding the Ditch the Rule issue is about normal water runoff through small ditches from the  small diversified family farm. But remember, one pound of organic soil holds four pounds of water, and big Ag does not farm organically.  

What it is really about is a CAFO, Confined Animal Feeding Operation.  When someone raises 200,000 birds at a time- 3 or more times a year-  you get a lot of poop… combine that with cocktails of toxic chemicals the animals are fed along with their corn, and the chemicals to sanitize the floors ( if indeed they do)  and you are ripe for nasty  RUNOFF situations that you don’t want near your children or your water sources.   You better believe CAFO’s are from where MRSA came, of course, it will be denied but just use common sense.

Lots of antibiotics used sub- therapeutically (not acute situations- only for feed gain and to keep the animals alive in such crowded conditions)  kill off all the weaker strains of bugs..leaving only the super bugs.  When cattle live in feedlots up to their knees in manure for months at a time gorging themselves on subsidized corn and beans  there is no grassy green carpet to slow or retain storm water.  IT RUNS OFF. 

The problem with the “Rule” regarding “Ditch the Rule”  campaign from Farm Bureau is that they are pulling small farmers into THEIR problems.  Small pasture-based  or very small feedlot operations that have natural buffer zones don’t  need onerous rules.  And of course, the small farm and ranch sell direct and know their customers the customers know them, they  even pet the animals.

Farm Bureau’s Poster girl for the Ditch the Rule campaign was based on Lois Alt’s problems with the EPA.   She is an eight house  contract grower with Pilgrims Pride.   Warehouse operator seems more in line with occupational description rather than farmer. She doesn’t even own the chickens.  And JBS, a south American company now owns 75% of the Pilgrims Pride.  JBS is the largest food processing company in the world, leading in sales.  So please note, this is really not about “small farmers,”  it’s about complete control of  the meat and poultry food supply.  Those small farmers are just the pawns in a very large game of Cargill, JBS, and the likes.


 Dave Harp http://www.chesapeakephotos.com


Another Farmer with a similar background of contract growing is Carole Morison,  but she  worked for Purdue.   She ran a chicken warehouse and decided that she wanted to raise birds right.  She believed the industrial model had too many problems including antibiotic resistance, culling of perfectly fine chickens that didn’t fit size requirements, farm log entry books that the company controlled, expensive upgrades for standardization. The final kicker was when the company wanted to  “upgrade” and deny any natural sunlight to the birds, ( they move less in the dark- using less energy). Purdue ended her contract when she refused. 

She raises chickens on her own terms now  and does not have to worry about the EPA.  She’s a real farmer.  Her chickens see  and feel real sunlight, their feet have touched grass and scratched for real worms. 

Back to the news story of the  Dinwiddie cookout where our illustrious Secretary of Agriculture spoke.  

Todd Haymore, the Virginia state secretary of agriculture and forestry, said making farming more profitable for farmers is an issue he is tackling in Richmond.

“The things we try to do from the governor’s office are to promote economic development in agriculture, recruiting new agribusinesses in the state, helping existing agribusinesses expand; also, global trade, move more product into the global marketplace,” Haymore said.

In terms of ecological impact of farming, Haymore said he was working to put less limitations on farmers.

“[We’ve been] working with EPA to be sure we’re not having onerous regulations placed on our farmers. Most farmers are good stewards of the land. They know if they take care of their land and water, it’s going to take care of them,”

– Progress-Index,  Aug 23, 2014

I  have worked directly with the department of Agriculture on the very topic of making farming more profitable.  When it comes to making farming more profitable for VA farmers, they are doing nothing meaningful.  The profit is in the processing.  And they will not allow farmers to process what they raise on their own land without their approval of course (SSOP, HACCP), and very expensive processing equipment.  That keeps small farmers out of the market place and is a profit protection measure for the large processing houses- who will then be bought up by the larger processing houses.

How can Secretary Haymore  say he is making farming more profitable, when under his watch Smithfield was sold to  Shuanghui, lock stock and barrel?  He knows contract growing keeps farmers down and profits up for the processors. Now it is under foreign control.  Howabout those Virginia farmers he is looking out after?

He does promote agribusiness to the state with taxpayer money- incentives to create jobs read my blog on Shamrock Farms  for details on how that works.  The state charges me taxes to give a subsidy to a processing house- to bring jobs- but denies me the ability to create my own job processing  the food I have raised on my own farm.

Wouldn’t we love to hear In terms of economic impact of farming, I am working to put less limitations on farmers  or we are working with the FDA and USDA to be sure we’re not having onerous regulations placed on our farmers.  Most farmers are good stewards of the food they raise and know how to process it into healthful nutritious products for their neighbors.  We want to rebuild our local economies and make them thrive.  I think that is what most people believe the Secretary of Agriculture’s mission is.

Secretary Haymore is right that farmers take care of their land, but I wouldn’t be so sure of warehouse operators.

The Tale of Two Massies

by Bernadette Barber

Two men with the same name, both cattlemen and both very outspoken on farm issues, couldn’t be more different,   Dr. Thomas “tractor-bucket” Massie, VA  and Congressman Thomas “Friend of the Farmer” Massie, KY.

Richmond, VA.

On January 20th, 2014 An obscure man in the back of the room stood up and identified himself as Thomas Massie to the members of the agricultural subcommittee.  He said he was a cattleman and veterinarian from Washington, VA , the 18th district.  He said he had  grave  concerns about the risks that  the Virginia Food Freedom Act (Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville)  would thrust upon an unsuspecting  and unprepared society that has such weakened  immune systems.

He admitted his own immune system,  by nature of his being reared on a farm and “eating a peck of dirt,” was far better than the average Virginian’s.  Continuing,  he said that since our society as a whole has been “drinking chlorinated water”  and living in a very protected climate controlled world, he just doesn’t think they have “the ability to stand those things”…pathogens.

With quiet steady implicative language, he instilled fear that the bill would allow for dangerous raw milk sales bringing pathogens from the cow to the high chair.  He even went so far as to say that if this law were to go in place “it would allow me…to slaughter an animal as I choose- this morning before breakfast- and stand by the side of the road, hang it on a loader bucket and ask if you’d like a piece”     The state credentialed veterinarian and industry high priest  is precisely the fear monger he said he wasn’t.  When one cannot get more graphic than a suggestive visual so insulting to real farmers who have integrity and independence,  it just may be the one thing people remember one by, “Tractor Bucket.”

Washington, DC

On  March 27th a bright promising  American introduced two bills to congress.  Thomas Massie identified himself as a grass-fed cattle producer.  He is a congressman from Garrison Kentucky, the 4th congressional district.  “I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers.  Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” said Massie.  “The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”

The “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014” (HR 4308) prevents  interference by the federal government with trade of unpasteurized, natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.

The “Milk Freedom Act of 2014” (HR 4307) provides relief to local farmers, small producers, and others who have been harassed, fined, and in some cases even prosecuted for the “crime” of distributing unpasteurized milk.  This bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products.

Massie stated, “Today, many people are paying more attention to the food they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed.  Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers. Personal choices as basic as ‘what we feed our families’ should not be limited by the federal government.”

Congressman Thomas “Friend of the Farmer” Massie’s take on Food Freedom: “I support the Food Freedom Act and oppose the federal Food Safety and Modernization Act.  The Food Freedom Act declares that the food grown and produced in state, when sold in state are beyond the authority of Congress and its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce among states. Individuals and farmers should continue to have access to non-genetically modified seed and the right to consume non-pasteurized products at their discretion.  We don’t need the federal food police on our farms and in our kitchens.”

There couldn’t be two more polar opposites with the same name.  Too bad the congressman is not from Virginia, we sure need him here.

The Death and Resurrection of the Virginia Food Freedom Act

By Bernadette Barber – www.virginiafoodfreedom.org

The Virginia Food Freedom Act, HB 135 was introduced by Delegate Rob Bell to the Agriculture Subcommittee in an overflowing conference room at the General Assembly on January 20th, 2014. Delegate Bell gave a strong delivery. Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms, spoke in favor of the bill as well as Randall Anderson, of Wicked Oak Farms, who spoke very eloquently about it. Dwayne McIntyre,  the farm manager for Roffey Cattle Company of southwest VA, drove 6 and a half hours to speak for 2 minutes, paring down the small farm issues to basic “freedoms.” Another testimony came from Matthew French, the owner of French Family Farms, who car-pooled with Dwayne. Matthew slept his five hours as he had just got off working a shift at a Pepsi plant. He told the subcommittee he wanted “to make bacon” from the hogs he raises on his 250 acre farm. Kimberly Hartke spoke for Weston A. Price Foundation and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense. I did not speak, as they only allowed 5 persons for testimony, but I did bring a petition with over fifty-five hundred signatures, garnered within four days, calling for the passage of the Virginia Food Freedom Act. Kimberly Hartke spoke for Weston A. Price Foundation and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense. I did not speak, as they only allowed 5 persons for testimony, but I did bring a petition with over fifty-five hundred signatures, garnered within four days, calling for the passage of the Virginia Food Freedom Act. The opposition brought out what Christine Solem described as the “medium guns“; they included a *15 member coalition of organizations against the bill brought forth by the Virginia Agribusiness Council. Farm Bureau was not only included, but also had Trey Davis speak in opposition. Aimee Perron Seibert, the lobbyist for the Virginia Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics stated that, “Raw milk carried a serious health risk to pregnant mothers and children”  citing the AAPs December 16, 2013, raw milk press release. The testimony from a veterinarian from the Agribusiness council and multigenerational cattle operation claimed laughably that people will be stringing dead cows up on the side of the road from tractor buckets carving off bad meat to an unsuspecting public. Anthony Bavuso of Seaford Oyster company videotaped the whole meeting and put it on youtube in 21 segments, the first 13 pertaining to HB 135. He has been in a fight with York County about selling the oysters he grows in his own “backyard” of 25 acres of leased river bottom. Danny Marshall, the chairman of the Ag committee, asked Deputy Secretary Travis Hill to look into the matter of the regulatory burdens that small producers face. At the close of the sub-committee hearing of HB 135, I took the opportunity to discuss the issues with him and the creation of a work group to bring forth the obstacles we face. Ruby Brabo, a King George County Supervisor who is a supporter of HB 135, joined the discussion. She had brought with her a constituent Farmer and asked Deputy Secretary Hill a number of questions and gave him a litany of facts supporting the safety and economic boon to a local economy that the passage of HB 135 could create. Kelly Pawlik also spoke with Deputy Secretary Hill, she had been censured by the Department of Agriculture for selling soups from her home in Fredericksburg. Since then, a task force has been created to address the issues and will be meeting in April in Charlottesville. We are still in the game, and hope to have a compromise bill for introduction in 2015 as well as federal legislation to be introduced by VA Congressmen to address the Federal Meat Inspection program so we can  “sell our bacon” A nice story on the Food freedom Act can be found on this website: http://forrager.com/law/virginia/ A continued petition on Peers .org is fueling the next part of the campaign. Please sign it and encourage others to sign on as well. http://campaigns.peers.org/petitions/pass-the-virginia-food-freedom-act *15 Members of the “Coalition” (American Academy of Pediatrics, Cooperative Milk Producers Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers Association, Medical Society of Virginia, Virginia Agribusiness Council, Virginia Cattleman’s Association, Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia food and Beverage Association, State Dairyman’s Association,Virginia Poultry Federation, Retail Merchants Association, Seafood Council, Veterinary Medical Association, and The Wholesale Distributors Association)

Bernadette Barber and her husband Gary own and operate Tall Trees Farm in the Northern Neck. They view themselves as stewards of God’s green earth and conduct their farm in that light. Following the design of creation their cattle graze in lust verdant pastures; their hogs roam freely in the woods; their chickens and turkeys chase bugs and aerate the soil. She picked up her love for farming from her father who beat leukemia with an organic garden.

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.