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State threatens rural Vt over 'raw milk' class

A warning by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture has forced the temporally suspension of Rural Vermont's series of Raw Dairy Processing classes. The agency's warning included the threat of legal action against Rural Vermont and participating farmers, according to the farm advocacy group.

According to Jared Carter of Rural Vermont, the non-profit organization has been holding classes since Act 62-the so-called Raw Milk Bill-was enacted by the Vermont House in 2009.

"Not wanting to place farmers at risk, Rural Vermont has put the classes on hold while pursuing discussions with the Agency of Agriculture," Carter wrote in a news release dated Feb. 17.

Rural Vermont said the suspension of its raw-milk classes came as a result of obtaining a "notice of warning" from the Agency of Agriculture.

The state alleges that by teaching consumers how to make butter, yogurt, cheese, and other products at home, Rural Vermont and the farmer hosts are in violation of Vermont law which regulates the safe production of dairy products under controlled conditions.

"The warning centers around the agency's interpretation of the

2009 Raw Milk Law, in which they claim that it is illegal for farmers to knowingly sell raw milk to customers who plan to do anything with their milk besides drink it," Carter wrote.

"The raw dairy processing classes are an important part of Rural Vermont's campaign to educate consumers on raw milk and to gain exposure for farmers trying to sell raw milk directly to the community.

Not wanting to put our farmer members at risk, Rural Vermont

has temporarily suspended the classes until we have solid understanding of the agency's official policy," he added.

In the news release, Carter wrote that "the Agency of Agriculture should be engaging farmers in ways to expand markets. In the past month, Rural Vermont testified to the legislature's Committees on Agriculture that in 2010 raw milk generated approximately $1 million in revenues directly to Vermont farmers.

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