February 22, 2007

Joann Givens, Detroit District Director
FDA, Detroit District Office
300 River Place, Suite 5900
Detroit, MI 48207

Via Facsimile (313) 393-8139

RE: Family Farms Coop/Forest Grove Dairy

Dear Ms. Givens:

I am writing this letter to express my dismay at the actions your office has taken against Forest Grove Dairy, David Hochstetler and Family Farms Cooperative. I understand that a warning letter was sent to Mr. Hochstetler informing him that your agency has determined that he was distributing unpasteurized milk and cream for human consumption in interstate commerce, violating the regulations codified in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The letter also mentioned that he was violating the labeling requirements.

I strongly disagree with your actions and am confused by your agency’s insistence on continuing to pursue Forest Grove Dairy, David Hochstetler and Family Farms Cooperative. In discussing this situation with attorneys working to protect the rights of raw milk farmers and herd shares owners, I learned the following about the law as it relates to this situation:

        Mr. Hochstetler has contractual herd lease agreements with consumer cooperatives in Michigan and Illinois. These are private, legal contracts.
        These dairy products are not destined into the chain of commerce; they are never sold or made available to the general public. The milk products
        are owned by the members of the cooperative who own the animals from which the milk is obtained. 21 CFR 1240.61 was issued in 1987 in
        response to the case Public Interest v Heckler (DC 1986) 653 F. Supp. 1229. In that case the federal judge ruled that the “Food and Drug
        Administration promulgate, and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services approve, a rule banning the interstate sale of all
        raw milk and all raw milk products, both certified and non-certified…” The rule promulgated by your agency was beyond what the judge ordered.
        However, during the 20 years since the promulgation of that rule it has never been enforced beyond a warning letter sent to violators.

It seems clear that the intent of the court ruling and the meaning behind such a rule was to prevent sales of raw milk in interstate commerce, which is not the case with Forest Grove Dairy. Since the milk is not for sale or in the chain of commerce, it should not be required to be labeled as if it is for retail or in “final form” which would speak to it being a sale. We have no idea what the final form of this product will be once it reaches the members of the cooperative, some may be giving it to their pets, some may be using it for culturing (such as kefir and yogurt), some may be making cheese from it. This action by your department is out of character and oversteps boundaries which have been in place for decades.

Mr. Hochstetler held a Grade A milk license in the state of Indiana for many years; during that time, tests for bacteria in the milk he produced consistently showed levels well below the limit required for pasteurized milk under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), the governing document for interstate shipments of milk to be sold at retail. In other words, the raw milk that Forest Grove Dairy provides to the cooperative is of a higher quality and has lower bacteria counts than is required of pasteurized milk. This speaks volumes to the safety of the raw milk from Forest Grove Dairy and to the impeccable animal husbandry practices of Mr. Hochstetler. The members of the cooperative are well -informed people who are knowledgeable about the small risk they assume, and who wish to obtain the best possible nutrition for their families (which may include their pets). It is not the duty of the FDA, and is a disservice to the public, for you to spend time and resources to jeopardize a food source that keeps families healthy and small family farms viable. Considering the current state of our nation’s economy, I firmly believe that your agency’s actions and expenditures are completely wasteful and despicable. Perhaps your funds and efforts would be better invested in investigating one of hundreds of FDA approved pharmaceutical drugs that have been know to cause stroke, heart failure, suicide or death by other means.

It is one of the basic rights our country was founded on to have freedom of choice. One of the most basic choices we can make is what foods we choose to put in our bodies. I firmly believe that our citizens and our government should do everything it can to help continue the history of farming that our forefathers founded this great land on. We have allowed a majority of our food to be consolidated into the few large-scale industrial agriculture giants. This is where the real food safety issues arise, in the factory farm model. We need to encourage the small, sustainable farmers who can provide real food and who can be a source for an economic resurgence in communities all over the world. The actions of your agency go against all of these principles.

I urge you to drop all intimidation and enforcement actions against David Hochstetler, Forest Grove Dairy and Family Farms Cooperative.