MIDDLEBURY - In response to a skyrocketing demand for raw milk and the significant economic opportunity it creates for Vermont's farmers, a new law governing all direct-to-consumer raw milk sales was implemented seven months ago.
The new law-Act 62-establishes a set of reasonable and basic standards, and allows farmers to make home deliveries to prepaid customers and sell up to 40 gallons per day. This new law creates a tiered regulatory structure in which two tiers are defined by the quantity of raw milk being sold directly to consumers.
Tier One producers include those farms selling up to 50 quarts (12 gallons) per day, and Tier Two producers can sell up to 40 gallons per day and make home deliveries to prepaid customers.
All farmers selling any amount of raw milk are expected to follow the reasonable and basic standards defined by the new law, thereby ensuring a safe and high-quality raw milk supply.
A few examples of these standards include that animals must be healthy, milking equipment must be cleaned and sanitized, milk must be cooled quickly, and farmers must maintain a daily transaction record.
Those operating as Tier 2 producers must follow some additional requirements, including registration with and inspection by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and regular milk testing. Regardless of the quantity being sold, any farmer can get certified as a Tier Two producer if s/he would like to deliver raw milk to customers.
This new law is hailed as a victory for Vermont by some politcians and most dairy farmers, because it recognizes that there is a food system that exists beyond the industrial model of mass production and distribution, and that different rules should apply when food is being produced in smaller quantities and sold directly to the end user.
Tiered regulations give farmers the opportunity to start small and grow their business gradually, as the market allows, rather than requiring a risky and expensive upfront investment.