The Older Brother’s notes from the sausage factory floor…

Hiya Fat Heads!

I meant to get this out yesterday, but spent a good chunk of the day in my basement with the shop-vac and floor squeegee keeping water moving towards the drain. Just one of those things when you live in the Midwest and have 7 or 8 inches above average rainfall for the year.

Anyway, I figured I’d share my notes from last week’s IDPH meeting before heading back downstairs to do battle with Mother Nature. (Note: as one of my buddies from the Power Squadron says — “water always wins — that’s why there’s a Grand Canyon.”)

Angel Smith, who originally tipped me off to the Illinois Department of Public Health being on the move to “regulate” raw milk out of existence, has already posted her notes from the meeting here.  She also links to a three-part series in The Prairie Advocate — here — that has more detail and history.

Here are my observations:

Firstly, and most encouraging, was how many people showed up.  I mentioned that in the last post, but I don’t recall ever being in a room where almost everyone in the audience (probably 120-140) seemed to be thinking the same way as I was.  Weird, really.  Good weird.  It couldn’t have felt very comfortable for the 10 or 15 members of the Raw Milk Steering Committee who thought they were just going to have a couple of meetings on the regulations that the FDA was paying them to “write,” then move on.

Which brings up one of the first exchanges; this one between Molly Lamb, Chief, Division of Food, Drugs, and Dairy (the person in charge of this circus, whose salary is around $77,000 a year) and Donna O’Shaughnessy, the raw milk producer who primarily instigated this revolt among the serfs:

Lamb (after Donna refers to the Raw Milk Steering Committee):  …I don’t know why you keep referring to this as the Raw Milk Steering Committee.  There’s no such thing.  This is the Dairy Subcommittee of the Food Safety Advisory Committee.

O’Shaughnessy:  Because that was the title of the two emails you sent me when I asked about these meetings.

<insert cricket chirping sound here!>

… The meeting  started with the obligatory “rules of order” and agenda, which is of course all done via Power Point Presentation and delivered by the person who was probably really responsible for actually doing all of the work, Steve DiVicenzo, Public Service Administrator.  Such service to the public being remunerated at a salary of over $100,000 per year.  This included the ground rules, making specific note that although the meeting was being conducted in public, the only people who could/would be speaking during the meeting — outside the 30 minutes set aside for public comment — were  the committee members.

[I mention the salaries in case anyone is wondering how to get $9 billion behind on your bills, $70 billion on your pension liabilities, and an even bigger number no one will say out loud on your unfunded health care obligations.]

After a couple of slides on the origin and history of the committee, Ms. Lamb asked if everyone knew how a regulation comes into existence and then clicked to a flow chart slide with about forty boxes titled something like “How a Regulation is Made.”  This is like the old “How an Idea Becomes Law” from your old civics class, which is complete b.s. because there’s no boxes for “lobbyists”, “vested interests”, “campaign donors”, or “tragedy stampede.”

The first one was “determine that a change or new regulation is needed” and went on from there.  She jumped to the box about meetings and hearings and blah, blah, blah, and was five minutes and about 1 & 1/2 rows into the five or six rows on the slide, which she assured everyone was actually kind of a condensed version.

I was looking at the pen I’d brought thinking “if I turn this around and jamb it into my eye socket really fast, maybe I’ll die before I feel anything.”  But I was also thinking, “why in the hell doesn’t anyone ask how they got past the first box — who decided they even NEED a new regulation?!?”

Then, one of the raw milk producers who had been added after Donna started inquiring raised his hand and said “you didn’t explain why or how the decision was made that we even need a new regulation — how did that happen?”

Then, the whole room erupted in cheers.  I slowly put my pen down and decided that it was going to be a good day.

Ms. Lamb: Um, well we decided.

Producer: How?

Ms. Lamb: Well, let’s move on…

At some point either right before or after this, Ms. Lamb helpfully pointed out (again, backed up with an authoritative Power Point slide) that since the Department had been statutorily given the authority to regulate dairies, and since there were currently no rules regulating raw milk, that meant that raw milk was really illegal. The slide literally had “no rule = illegal” on it.

This is the bureaucratic mindset at its very base: until a bureaucrat passes a rule that says you have their permission to do something, it’s illegal.  She said this with a smile like that was going to clear things up, and let people know they were just trying to be helpful by passing some rules.  She seemed to be a bit surprised by the (politely contained) expressions of outrage and incredulity from the crowd.

There was also this:

Producer: So, your directive is to regulate dairies?

Ms. Lamb: Yes

Producer: But the regulations define a “dairy” as an operation that collects milk from farming operations for processing and wholesale and retail sales.

Ms. Lamb: Yes

Producer: So, since that definition means none of us are dairies, you shouldn’t be regulating us.

(audience: applause)

And this:

Producer (addressing Larry Terando from the FDA): Why are you on this committee?  The FDA has a position that all raw milk is always bad and has made it illegal to sell across state lines.  Therefore, all raw milk transactions are intrastate and there is no federal issue here.

(Audience: applause)

Ms. Lamb: He’s here as an expert…

Terando:  Because all raw milk is hazardous, so since it can occur in multiple states we have a federal interest.

The correct answer is that the FDA is financing this whole thing, so they get to call the shots.  Mr. Terando apparently had a busy schedule as he did not return to the meeting after the lunch break.

Another question — I can’t recall if it was from Donna or one of the other new folks on the committee:

Producer: Why did you send a memo to the state legislative committee with these proposed rules in it before we even had this meeting?

Ms. Lamb: Oh, those aren’t really proposed rules.  That’s just like a status report of what we’ve been discussing.

Producer: Well, since you sent that before any raw milk producers or consumers were put on the committee, and since many of the statements are incorrect, can we send a new memo with correct information and let them know there is disagreement on the proposed rules?

Ms. Lamb: Well, since that’s just a status report we really don’t need to do that.

When they got to the part of the agenda labeled “Epidemiology,” another IDPH expert got up.  She introduced herself (forgot her name, so I don’t know how much that pays) and started with her section of Power Point slides.  She was promptly interrupted:

Producer: How long have you been with IDPH?

Epidemiologist: I’ve been here twelve years (I may be a bit off on this –jn)

Producer: What is your degree in?

Epidemiologist: I have a Masters degree in Public Health Administration

Producer: So, you’ve studied a lot of food-born illnesses and outbreaks?

Epidemiologist: Yes.

Producer: How many raw milk outbreaks or illnesses have you studied?

Epidemiologist: Well, I’m not sure specifically raw milk related.

Producer: Is that because there haven’t been any in Illinois while you’ve worked here?

<insert cricket chirping sound here!>

I’m not sure what a Masters degree in Public Health Administration really prepares you for, but apparently it’s not the evaluation of epidemiological data.  It seemed to be maybe a G.E.D. level in “Google,” because her presentation consisted of a few slides of “studies” showing — wait for it — correlation! — between food born illnesses and states with raw milk; and one with a recap of dairy related outbreaks where “raw dairy” accounted for a majority of the “All Dairy” category.  This probably would’ve played well for the average audience, but it was the equivalent of trying to lecture a room full of Fat Heads (which this kind of was) on the evils of Saturated Fat while citing the Seven Countries Study and then doubling down with the China Study.

Even one of the Big Dairy folks couldn’t let these go, and stepped up to the plate:

Dairy rep: That study has already been challenged. Two-thirds of the illnesses — including the only two deaths –attributed to raw dairy  in that report  were directly attributed to “bathtub cheese,” where Hispanic people have made their traditional queso cheese using raw milk [probably illegally from dairies before the pasteurization process — not actual raw milk producers — jn].  It was undoubtedly contaminated in the cheese making process or subsequent handling.

Epidemiologist: Um, well, yes, some people do have different opinions.  My next slide relates to cheese!….

That may have been my personal favorite.

Once they got to the part where they were supposed to discuss actual rules — now just “suggestions for discussion,” mind you — it was exactly what you’d expect.  A bunch of rules related to massive, highly automated, feedlot-style operations that may have value in that environment, but completely non-scalable down to the level of someone or a family personally running a pastured cow dairy operation.  Even things like chill tanks would cost thousands and thousands of dollars.  And lord help the person who takes that fresh milk into their own kitchen and puts it in the fridge until their customer stops by.  No sir, separate milking parlors, chill rooms, etc. etc.  With the further caveat that no more than 100 gallons of raw milk could be sold a month.  When the producers hoo-haa-ed that one especially, one of the bureaucrats said — I swear to God, months in and ready to pass  rules on this that would put most of the producers in the room out of business —   “well, we weren’t really sure how many gallons a month you folks usually produce.”

The answer, in case you get asked, is that 100 gallons is about maybe  1/2 down to about 1 full cow’s production for a month.  So if you have one healthy dairy cow, during the productive season, you’ll be throwing half of Bessie’s milk away!

That’s mostly what I recall from the official meeting, somewhat in that order.  After lunch and moving to a room big enough to hold all the folks there to defend their rights to healthy food, they did allow over a half hour for public comments.  They used as a list the folks who’d submitted written comments.  Several spoke, all of whom I pretty much agreed with.  Angel actually got the last word, and did a great job relating how poor health impacted her military career and that raw milk was a key component of rebuilding her health.

The real standout was a women named Penny Gioja (again, thanks to Angel for taking way better notes than me!), who recounted having run an in-home day care for several years before the regulatory cost and paperwork led her to move on, then her family being talked into selling eggs at a local farmers’ market until they were told of a couple more licenses they’d need to purchase that made it economically unviable, and now looking at having to decide whether they should just leave the state.

Then she got wonderfully animated and told the panel that if the IDPH’s mission was really — as they had asserted — to protect the health and nutrition of Illinois citizens, she wanted them to enforce the same rules for people who sold Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Monster Drink, which have well-documented poor health impacts — they could only sell 100 gallons a month, they couldn’t advertise, they could only put it in the customers’ own containers, and it could only be purchased on the vendors’ premises.  That rocked the house.

That pretty much wrapped the day.  The committee had a few more housekeeping items, like setting the next meeting and such.  Everyone broke up and started heading for the doors to return home.

I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk.  A lot of informed, passionate, motivated people showed up to stand up for things people just took for granted a generation ago.  The bureaucrats also accidentally put over 120 of those people in contact with each other, many of whom (like me) didn’t know there were so many more of us out there, not alone. Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.

I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.

It’s what they do.

Still, it was a pretty good day in the sausage factory.

Cheers!

the Older Brother

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16 thoughts on “The Older Brother’s notes from the sausage factory floor…

  1. anna.b

    I hate Illinois Nazis.

    C’mon. They’re no meaner than any other Nazis.

    Let’s keep Godwin’s Law in mind:

    “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

    Reply
    1. Jim Butler

      And it happens every time.

      Jim

      It’s an easy reaction to have, and I don’t think many folks find these government idiots more infuriating than I do, but it tends to kill conversation rather than encourage it.

      So, I second the sentiment, but prefer to leave an opening for discussion for those who may think they like regulation, but are open to an argument.

      Reply
  2. Nads

    Aw, two comments, poor big brudda.

    It’s been so long since I guested in the Big Chair that I forgot how much I miss my vegetrollian buddies!

    Reply
  3. Laura F

    I’m from Illinois and I’m moving back there soon. I’m excited about getting involved with this crowd.

    We’ll be glad to have you…

    Reply
  4. Jesrad

    As awesome fun it may have been to be there and watch the fascists being slowly dragged through their own incompetence and grilled for hours (and yet you can bet that, alarmed by the unusual attraction the meeting got, they scrambled hard and brainstormed for several previous days to brace for the impact ! What little they had to say, explain and argue was their actual highest, do-or-bust, capacity)… you’ve likely only made it much worse, because there’s a good chance some of those “people in charge” are sociopaths – they are overrepresented in every position of power.

    Embarrassing a sociopath is the sure way to make them crazy-mad. Irrationally, passionately, remorselessly mad against you, pushing them well beyond the edge. In fact, even self-preservation gets tossed out the window when you embarrass a sociopath.

    Expect to have to fight, and fight very very hard, against the next round of regulatory shots.

    Sociopath goes more with elected office.

    Bureaucrats and regulators can definitely be irrational and remorseless and vindictive. One of the raw milk producers who’d been a Class A Dairy farmer told about a regulator telling him point blank that the regulator didn’t like what the producer was doing and would like to shut him down. However, the bureaucratic mindset is focused first and foremost on self-preservation and careerism.

    The real problem is those bureaucrats are being paid (way beyond any value they actually return) to do what they do all day. Almost everyone else in the room was doing so at a cost in time and income. That’s how bureaucrats win.

    Reply
  5. Ed Terry

    I know bureaucrat-bashing is a very popular past-time, but the requirements and implementation for government regulations is much more complex than most people realize. I’ve been in the Federal government for over 21 years and I’ve seen the actual process and forces that eventually lead to idiotic regulations.

    Back during the Reagan years, most of the government expertise in any area was outsourced to private contractors, in an effort to downsize government. However, this change to private companies ensured that two to three times the funds would be spent. A lot of the push to make this change came from private industry lobbying Congress to outsource the labor. Another effect was to discourage government employees from displaying any technical competence. The few govt employees who worked hard to retain their technical expertise were never promoted. Instead, the people who knew how to kiss ass and not rock the boat were promoted to their level of incompetence and followed a very simple philosophy – don’t question authority.

    Government regulations always favor big business, who has the resources and money to meet, workaround or influence the regulations. Smaller businesses, without the benefit of lobbyists, congressman and lawyers, are often without recourse when it comes to fighting the system or insane regulations. But bureaucrats are always blamed because they are stuck with enforcing regulations developed by private industry and the political appointees who occupy positions of power in departments and agencies. These political appointees usually get their positions by donating time and money to whomever is in power, be it democrat or republican.

    It is not about ideology, it’s about money.

    Always follow the money.

    So it’s Reagan’s fault. That bastard!

    I know, up until the Dark Knight got elected, the government was populated with competent, non-ass-kissing boat-rockers looking out for the little guy. Excuse me while I throw up.

    Listen carefully.

      Every

    regulatory agency — all the way back to the creation of the ICC in the late 1800’s to keep an eye on the evil railroad companies — has ended up being owned by the Bigs in the industry they are allegedly regulating. Every single one.

    Where would the Big Banks be without the Fed? Where would Big Pharma be without the FDA? Where would Big Ag and Big Chem be without the USDA?

    There’s always been money to follow. Without the regulatory agencies, money has to be earned by satisfying consumers. With them, you only have to juice the right folks, and then you get to decide what choices consumers will have and what they’ll have to pay for it. That’s why the highest income zip codes in the nation are now centered around Washington, D.C. Regulation, even more than law, is absolute power; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Ed Terry

      Oops. I was expecting a rational response. My bad

      Perhaps an example of an outstanding regulatory success on your part would help.

      Happy Public Service Recognition Week. Give yourself a pat on the back. But please be careful — in Illinois that usually ends up as a Workers Comp Claim.

      Too bad most of us here recognize how much we’re being “serviced.”

      Reply
  6. Jim

    http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/08/news/augusta/raw-milk-poultry-and-produce-bills-easing-small-farm-oversight-clear-big-legislative-hurdle/?ref=regionstate

    We buy raw milk, cream, yogurt and cheese every week right at the store. One nice thing about living in a small state with a mostly rural population is that these kind of issues get real traction. Local farm markets are huge here. It is very much a live and let live attitude. Wish you guys the best out there.

    Nice to see some progress anywhere.

    Reply
  7. Firebird

    Meanwhile in New Jersey, the governor’s cure for unhealthy eating is to get a lap band as he tells you that you cannot have raw milk.

    I’m sure his government health plan is paying for that one.

    Reply
  8. perspectiveOne

    Ahhh, perspective is such an interesting thing. In other parts of the world we have warlords ripping out the hearts of their enemies and eating it (literally). In entire countries there are millions of people who couldn’t even afford a single cow (or a gallon of pasteurized milk) if their life depended on it. A few hours ago, 30 people were killed from 2 car bombs out in public.

    And a big issue in Jerry Naughton’s tiny little world? Not being able to consume a certain amount of raw milk! I can think of many dozens of issues in this country that both affect more people and are more important than not being able to consume a certain type of milk. First world problem combined with white people problems. Suit up in your revolutionary garb and musket, Jerry, the tyrants must be overthrown!

    Funny you should mention that. My next post was going to be on how to cook a heart.

    Maybe you’re new here, but in case you didn’t get the flavor of this blog, it tends to focus on nutrition, science, and food issues. If you’d like to see how I feel about more worldly issues, that would be on my blog, which I may actually get around to writing on again one of these days.

    But according to your highly refined sense of justice, I wasn’t supposed to talk about any of that this past week just in case some turd decided to light up another 30 poor souls halfway around the world in the last couple of hours. Add them to the list. I did enough worrying about that shit when my son was over there. Nice of you to take a turn.

    So, once I personally burn down all of the socialized governments in the world so all those billions of poor bastards can have a cow of their own, would it be ok with you then if I could concern myself with our $16 trillion in the red government’s insistence on meddling with my food? I’m gonna have to ask you to step up and see about getting their milk pasteurized for them though, since most places in the world don’t do that.

    I’m not sure when obesity, diabetes, crappy schools, a byzantine health care system, bankrupt governments, corrupt bureaucrats, etc., etc., etc. became “white people” problems. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I actually thought those tended to be bigger issues for brown folks, since they’re over-represented in the lowest income groups and don’t have options to avoid you world-savers. It’s okay though, I’ve got big shoulders.

    Thanks for the laugh.

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. perspectiveOne

      It appears I’ve struck a nerve. You seem to be a very very angry human being and not very happy to be living in this country. Maybe you should pack up and leave? Head over to a libertarian paradise in one of the African countries that’s lacking a central government. Might be difficult to get a cow, but once you do, extract all of the raw milk that you want. No pesky government debt, healthcare or Kenyan president to worry about. Until then, continue to suite up in your Revolutionary garb and go to town hall debates about raw milk. The road to serfdom begins with Jerry Naughton being forced to drink pasteurized milk, ladies and gentlemen.

      And I apologize that your son was sent over to kill brown people based on the premise that WMD’s were being brewed in mobile homes a la Breaking Bad. LOL. (Speaking of, that added quite a hefty tab onto our national debt, and it wasn’t even spent on citizens of our own country! But go ahead and complain about the cost of providing universal healthcare to our own citizens)

      Oh, and pst pst…in case nobody told you (or you failed to look), there’s more white people on welfare than “brown” people, as you most gracefully put it. Sad to see you getting your talking points from tea party rallies.

      And I’m the angry one, huh?

      I guess that’s why I troll people’s blogs to lecture them on the truly important things in life. Oh wait, that was you.

      Couple of notes:
      1) Lacking a central government <> libertarian
      2) It’s ok, you don’t have to apologize to me for the Iraq war. I know you’ve got enough on your plate already, and now with the new bombings in Iraq and Turkey, and the whole Japanese sex slave thing, I’m flattered you could even take time to continue educating the rest of us.
      3) But in point of fact, I was against both Iraq wars, and everything after the first month of Afghanistan. Unlike your guy — the Nobel Peace Prize Winner and “Nuke a Wedding Party” drone stud — we libertarian types aren’t real big on that type of adventure.
      4) I of course didn’t say there are more brown people on welfare than whites. Like you, I know the numbers. Apparently unlike you, I can do math. I said they are over-represented, and therefore as a group more likely to have their life options and outcomes more heavily influenced by the government. Maybe you have a friend who can help walk you through these numbers (I’ll leave out Asians and Hispanics to keep it simple for you):
      U.S. Population ~ 310 million
      White = 63.4% = 197.5 million
      Black = 13.1% = 40.6 million
      Americans on welfare (income-based assistance programs) ~ 90 million
      White = 38.8% = 34.9 million
      Black = 37.2% = 33.5 million
      So yes, there are around 1.5 million more white people on welfare. But that wasn’t the question.
      It’s this:
      What are the odds that a person is dependent on the government for support/nutrition/housing/whatever?
      White = 34.9 / 197.5 = 18%
      Black = 33.5 / 40.6 = 74%
      So, it’s about one in five for the white oppressors and three out of four for the more pigmentally endowed. And the whites had to include us bog-trotters in their numbers!

      Again, thanks for the laughs. It was a great birthday present.

      Cheers

      Reply
  9. perspectiveOne

    Who cares if they are ‘over-represented’? Why not complain about American Indians too, since they are just as, if not more dependent on the government than ‘brown people’. Because when you’re dealing with straight numbers, percentages are meaningless. More money is spent on welfare for white people than black people, plain and simple. There you go, let it sink it. Your ‘black welfare queen” image that you like to stir up at the old white people rallies (i.e. teabagger rallies) is actually more likely to be a white welfare queen if choosing from a pool of 90 million welfare recipients.

    And why would you possibly think I support Obama doing drone strikes? You’re making false assumptions, flinging the same crap at me that you claim to be receiving. I too was against both wars.

    As a libertarian, you hate government. Therefore you’d rather have no central government than a big central government.

    Happy birthday, make sure to get your prostate checked.

    I never really expect folks with your reasoning skills to be able to follow my point, but I still wonder how you can’t seem to follow your own point.

    First you state that our government’s little tyrannies in dictating our food choices are — and I know this was a long time ago for you, but try to remember your line of argument from two days ago — “white people problems.” I’m not sure how you managed to divine that as a racial issue, but on the other hand, I’m not surprised, either.

    The when I demonstrate that non-whites are fours times more likely to be victims of said government meddling, i.e., over-represented, here come the good old intellectually hollow “black welfare queen” and “teabagger” standbys (good thing you’re not angry).

    Although non-whites represent over half of welfare recipients, whites are indeed the largest single census group by about a percent. Let’s try again — if you walk into any public high school and pick 100 white kids and 100 non-whites, would you seriously bet that more of the white kids are on the free school lunch program (provided by the USDA, Monsanto, and Kraft Foods) than non-whites? I don’t mean bet other people’s money or their kids’ health this time though, I mean your own money.

    I know it’s probably impossible for you to understand this, but that wasn’t “complaining” — it was concern. See, unlike you, I don’t see being dependent on government programs as a good thing or a benefit. Complain about the Indians? Good God, I wouldn’t wish their deal on anyone.

    Don’t worry, I had no doubt you were against both wars, too. I just wish your team was against them as much now as when Bush was president.

    Got to run. It’s my day to pick up my raw milk. And no, that’s not some racist code.

    Cheers

    Reply
  10. Chuck

    I was reading about the raw milk issue a couple days ago. The solution some of them came up with was to buy a share in the cow from the farmer, making them part owner. Being part owner entitles them to a percentage of the milk. You’re technically not buying and selling raw milk and the farmer gets money to take care of the cow. Sometimes loopholes work for us too.

    Reply

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