Milk & Dairy
Unfettered access to a wide spectrum of local dairy products in Oregon is severely limited despite the recent groundswell in demand. Current regulations inhibit the face to face relationships consumers are asking for while limiting producers’ abilities to meet the dairy needs of their communities. Milk, because it is undervalued on the commodity market, creates economic instability for farmers and limits the potential for new producers to recoup the high costs of entrance into dairy production.
The Current Situation
The cost of entry to licensed dairy production severely limits the ability of new farmers to become a legal entity, discouraging many from taking the risk and threatening the continuity of family dairies in Oregon.
Industrial dairies flood market with milk, adversely influencing prices received by all farmers, undervaluing milk and other dairy products.
The recent trend toward small-scale, community dairies requires new regulations and technical assistance services that are applicable to these enterprises and the non-conventional dairy products they produce:
- Blanket regulations hinder the face-to-face relationships between customer and producer that are based on respect, honesty and trust
- Without any food safety infrastructure inclusive to the small producer, farmers will continue to operate outside of regulations, creating a myriad of problems for the industry and the consumer
Demand for raw milk cannot be met under the three cow/nine goat exemption currently in place in the state of Oregon:
- Specific education and training for raw milk safety inspections and the continuing education of inspectors is needed to ensure both consumer food safety and viable markets for these alternative products
Priority Action Items
1. Legalize access to raw milk with a testing and inspection program
- Get rid of the current three cow/ nine goat exemption for raw milk
- During transition period, enact a volunteer pilot testing program for interested farmers
2. Help create cooperative community dairy possibilities, including:
- Farmer mentors
- Organic and/or pasture transition assistance
- Ways to assist new/young dairy farmers
3. Provide state incentives, that are geared to federal grant programs, to provide matching funds and technical assistance for diverse dairies producing a variety of products
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