The long legal battle over Meadowsweet Dairy's raw milk dairy operation may be over. Last week, Appellate Division Third Department of New York State Supreme Court dismissed the Lodi, N.Y., farm's challenge to the State Department of Ag and Markets' authority to regulate the farm's raw milk operation.
"While New York allows the sale of raw milk on permitted farms, regulations are in place in order to help ensure the safety of what some consider a high-risk food," announced Ag Commissioner Pat Hooker after the decision. "I greatly appreciate this Court reaffirming what the others before it have found in that this farm is not exempt from our regulations that are in place to help protect public health."
Meadowsweet had argued it wasn't subject to regulation because its operations were confined to its members and there was no sale of raw milk and raw milk products to them. The court unanimously rejected that claim, and found that:
- New York law grants the department broad authority over farms which produce dairy products and food, and that authority isn't limited to food offered for sale. It applies for foods given away, as well.
- Meadowsweet's operation is a milk plant and must obtain a milk plant permit to operate, even if no raw milk were sold. In this instance, the milk plant received raw milk from Meadowsweet and made raw milk butter, raw milk cheese and raw milk keifer.
- Meadowsweet, in effect, sold its raw milk to its members via a prepayment system. The Court said: "The financial arrangements [of Meadowsweet] appear…to have been purposely designed to avoid cash sales of dairy products in an attempt to circumvent the department's regulations."
Currently, 26 farms are permitted to sell raw milk in the Empire State. They are inspected by the department monthly.