CHB raw milk farm is refusing to sign rules
The Central Hawke’s Bay raw milk farm raided by the Ministry for Primary Industries has called the bluff of the Government, saying it will refuse to sign up to mandatory regulations.
Lindsay Farm in Waipukurau, one of New Zealand’s largest raw milk producers, says MPI’s regulation of the raw milk industry is “unfit for purpose” and must change.
But MPI says rules exist for a reason, and unregistered suppliers are putting consumer health at risk.
Lindsay Farm was raided in December as part of nationwide raids on unregistered or non-compliant raw milk suppliers. MPI conducted the raids after a two-year review of the Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers Regulations 2015.
Lindsay Farm is a familyowned operation run by Paul and Christine Ashton, Christine’s father Bryan Donovan, Mike Ashton, their eldest son, and Ange Brooks, their eldest daughter.
It did not sign up to MPI’s regulations, but established a farm partnership which allowed former customers to join at no cost, becoming partners in the ownership of their herd of cows.
They milk the cows, and volunteers deliver milk to a collection point, with partners paying for the service.
Paul Ashton said they believed they always acted within the law, and will not register to the regulatory framework they consider unfit for purpose.
“We have a successful and safe operation that works for our customers, who are being denied freedom of choice by the regulations,” he said. “Our food safety procedures are best practice. We exceed the regulatory guidelines for harvesting, testing, bottling and storing our milk.”
The MPI regulations allow raw milk (not pasteurised, standardised or homogenised) to be sold by farmers, but only on-premise or delivered to a customer’s home.
The regulations also impose an audit scheme on farmers that many see as onerous, expensive and ineffective, Ashton said.
The regulations failed to address logistical, food safety, and environmental concerns associated with distribution.
“As the regulations stand, people have to travel a long way to a farm to collect milk from a vending machine, or producers have to deliver the milk to people’s gates or mail boxes,” Ashton said. “This is expensive and timeconsuming for everyone. And when milk is delivered, it can be left out in the sun for longer than is desirable. It’s also not great for the carbon footprint.
“We want to be able to deliver raw milk every day to clean, safe, certified and chilled collection points, so that people can come and collect their milk,” he said.
“Our position is that there is no justification for the action that MPI has taken against Lindsay Farm and other producers. There is a more sensible way of doing things.”
At the time of the raid MPI’s manager of food compliance, Melinda Sando, said the purpose of the coordinated site visits was to gather evidence of the offending and to allow further investigation of noncompliant sales.
Ashton wanted MPI to work with raw milk producers to allow collection points for raw milk customers, and adopt the best-practice safety methods that they and other raw milk producers use.
“We want MPI to work with raw milk providers like us to help the growth and sustainability of quality, small-scale farming enterprises that can conveniently and safely satisfy the growing consumer demand for raw milk.”
Mark Houston, a Takaka farmer who chairs the Raw Milk Producers Association of New Zealand, representing 35 members including Lindsay Farm, agreed with the need for change.
“When the regulations were about to be introduced in 2016, the Association said that the regulations went too far in banning collection points, which reduces access for consumers, especially in urban areas.
“We continue to hold this view.”
Houston said public consultation on the regulations showed overwhelming support for raw milk producers.
A petition to Parliament at change.org that started last December, Save our raw milk farms, attracted 5000 signatures by Christmas, and now has more than 18,000.
“By not adhering to the rules for selling raw drinking milk, unregistered suppliers are putting consumer health at risk,” An MPI spokeswoman said.
She said rules existed for a reason and consumers wanted to be able to trust their source of raw milk.
“Investigation into the conduct of Lindsay Farms in respect of the supply of raw drinking milk is ongoing.
“We are unable to comment on further detail.”
Mike Ashton milking cows at Lindsay Farm, one of NZ’s largest raw-milk suppliers.