Herd shares; written shared herd ownership agreements, regulations, penalty. (HB825)

Introduced By

Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Herd shares; written shared herd ownership agreements; requirements; penalty. Authorizes any person to enter into a written agreement with the owner of a herd of milk-producing animals to obtain an ownership interest in the owner's milking herd and any of the milking herd's unpasteurized milk production equal to the percentage ownership interest, subject to certain requirements relating to filing with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, packaging, acknowledging certain dangers, and prohibiting sale or resale. The bill requires the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Health to investigate any illness that results from the consumption of unpasteurized milk provided pursuant to such an agreement. Any violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with each day of violation being counted as a separate offense. The bill authorizes the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt related regulations. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/09/2018Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/10/18 18102330D
01/09/2018Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources
01/23/2018Impact statement from DPB (HB825)
02/02/2018Assigned ACNR sub: Subcommittee #1
02/05/2018Subcommittee recommends striking from docket (8-Y 0-N)
02/13/2018Left in Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources


Sam bass writes:

This bill is not needed. I do not support it. Leave family farms alone.

Dan Sperling writes:

I urge all delegates to vote no on the bills. They attempt to intimidate farmers and consumers from starting up or continuing herd share programs by making violations a first-degree misdemeanor with penalties of up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines per offense.

The legislation invades the privacy rights of shareholders and herd share farmers by forcing them to turn over their contracts to the government under the threat of criminal penalties if they do not.

The bills further attempt to intimidate shareholders into not joining a herd share program by requiring that the contracts they sign with the farmer provide that shareholders assume joint liability if the herd or milk produced by the herd is responsible for any injury or illness.

The bills require costly annual testing for tuberculosis and brucellosis. The tests aren't necessary. The USDA has designated Virginia as both tuberculosis- and brucellosis-free.

Herd shares are a closed-loop arrangement with a high degree of traceability should there be any suspected illness; they should not be subject to government regulation.

The government has the authority under existing law to competently deal with any foodborne illness outbreak. The expanded powers the legislation gives to the Commonwealth are not necessary.

The bills interfere with the private property of shareholders the government should not be involved in the business of consumers obtaining a milk from animals they co-owned.

SB. 962 would give VDACS rulemaking power to further burden farmers beyond what the requirements in the bill itself does.

HB 825 would cost taxpayers nearly a quarter million dollars a year to regulate a private contractual arrangement not in the stream of public commerce.

The bills require farmers trash their own product by having a consumer advisory on milk containers warning of "the danger of consuming unpasteurized animal-derived foods." Is it necessary to have this warning on raw milk going to the co-owners of the dairy animals that produced it? Is it necessary to have any labeling requirement at all that these bills do?

Stewart depret-guillaume writes:

I oppose this bill. As a current share holder I do not need this to keep me "safe". As a taxpayer I do not want money spent on useless government regulation.

Connie Monnin Webb writes:

An unnecessary measure that further inhibits our freedoms and frivolous use of funds.
I do not support this bill.

Lindsay Fischer writes:

I strongly oppose this bill. It is an underhanded attempt to control small family farms and consumers who wish to participate in herd sharing programs. Well informed consumers do not need government interference and tracking. The bill is an unnecessary expansion of powers and a waste of tax payer funds.

Penelope Ferguson writes:

The Commonwealth of Virginia has always been noted as an Agricultural State. The small, local farmers are making a comeback and are well respected within the local communities. To encumber them with this unnecessary bill is simply wrong. Many in the general population are getting back to natural/local organic produce and dairy products...for their better health. With better health, this lowers overall health-care costs, thus putting money back into the family pocket.
Money for the Farmer, Money for the community, Money for the family... Leave the cows alone.
Please vote NO on SB 962/ HB825. Promote VA agriculture not inhibit it.
Penelope Ferguson RD (registered dietitian)

Cheistina Son writes:

Please do not support this bill it's an extra burden on small family farmers and it's completely unnecessary and a waste of our taxpayer dollars.

Anne Buteau writes:

Bills introduced by Del Knight (HB825) and Sen Obenshain (SB962) Herdshare ownership regulations and penalties, are nothing to do with food safety, but all to do with the elimination of any competition to the fluid milk industry which has been in decline for years.

Owning a cow is not possible for most people who want really fresh milk, so they buy a share in a cow and pay board to the person who looks after it, so then they can go and pick up THEIR milk. There are no sales of milk, and milk is not available to the general public so herd share arrangements are not a public health risk.

A person who owns a share in a cow has made a concious decision to do so, and are taking personal responsibility for their food choices. This freedom should not be taken away. Please ask your delegate and senator to vote against these harsh and unwarranted bills.

Dorie Gamble writes:

Please we DO NOT want or need this bill. I nor my family support it. Leave our right to choose to us.

Carol Lee Bell writes:

Please vote NO on this bill. This bill would essentially eliminate the herd share program. These programs are small farms that put their efforts in taking care of our cows and producing safe milk, not spending all their money on unnecessary tests, paperwork and liability insurance. If the goal of this bill is to make sure no one in this state has access to raw milk, then it is spot on...

Benjamin Beichler writes:

Please vote NO on this bill and its Senate companion SB962. These bills support regulating a private herd share contract between consenting adults who are fully aware of any potential risks before entering. Regulating these contracts is unnecessary and a intrusion in personal privacy. If you doubt the intent or integrity of the small farmers that will be regulated by these bills, I ask you kindly to reach out to them and learn more about what they do and why they do it. Thank you for your consideration.

Karen kwiatkowski writes:

No needed, please vote no on this bill. Unless you simply hate freedom, but at least own up to that!

Emerson Willard writes:

Please don't support this HB825. It includes regulation designed to burden, inhibit, and control our small community family farms and has nothing to do with the general public. The bill requires wasteful and expensive paperwork and elaborate testing for nonexistent problems. I am a share holder and I consider this micro-regulation of my property.

Samuel Matich writes:

Oppose Herd Share Bill HB 825
by Samuel Matich

Herd Share programs are the only way people can get Raw Milk in Virginia. People, especially those with cancer or lactose intolerance choose it for its health and nutrition. Recently, bills to regulate herd share programs have been introduced in the 2018 Virginia legislative session in both the House and Senate. These bills jeopardize the existence of herd shares and the ability of individuals to obtain raw milk as freely as they currently do. Both bills are currently in Committee. I oppose these proposed legislations for the following reasons:

• Virginia has long had a history of food freedom.
• Herd share farmers have sanitary practices because they drink their own milk. Thus, we don't need increased regulations that that cannot be enforced, and which bear a class 1 Misdemeanor penalty.
• Don't grow the government and increase taxes and regulations, putting the farmers out of business.
• Why create a database of customers when that isn't done when you purchase at the grocery store?
• Where did this originate? The answer is Big Ag. I understand the Virginia AgriBusiness Council pushed this legislation through their lobbyist. Why should lobbyist control legislation? Shouldn't the will of the people prevail.
• The herd share owners, whom this is designed to protect, are not asking for it.
• So for these reasons, We the People do not want these bills passed.

Skye McGowen writes:

Please do not pass this bill.

Michael Reilly writes:

Please vote No on HB825. I have been a part of herd shares throughout the past ten years and believe they are an outstanding way for people to access the healthiest milk possible for themselves and their families. It is a despicable myth for anyone to portray raw milk from our wonderful local family farms as inferior to the factory-farmed hormone and chemical laden product from abused and confined animals. Essentially ending herd shares in Virginia would mean trampling on the free rights of our citizens to find the healthiest food possible for our families and it would mean squashing the livelihoods of our local family farmers who are so much more committed to the health of land and animals and the well being of our citizens than some far off corporate owned industrial milk facility.

Ariana Anderson writes:

I strongly oppose House Bill No. 825 and Senate Bill No 962. It is an alarming governmental intrusion into the private contract between individual members of a herd share. It would force private citizens to register with the State as if they were criminals. Does the State track private citizens who eat sushi, rare meat, or participate any any other behavior of choice that is deemed the slightest bit risky? Moreover, it would give the Commisioner legal authoritiy to "enter upon and have free access to any location relevant to the investigation in performance of his duties pursuant to § 3.2-5213." This is a frighteningly broad permission open to abuse, and it contradicts the 4th Amendment which requires a warrant to search a privately owned property. This is not a food product entering into general commerce and therefore difficult to trace in a public health outbreak. There is a high level of traceability in herd share programs if there is a suspected illness given that the government has all the authority it needs under existing law to conduct a competent investigation. The bills would upset the balance between the law's protection of privacy and property rights and the government's protection of the public health.

Other points in these bills appear designed only to burden small farms out of existence. The labeling requirement, for example, is unnecessary as I doubt anyone seeks out a herd share in order to obtain raw milk without being aware of the purported risks. My current herd share farm has commented that just the cost of labeling would put them over the edge into being financially unsustainable. Categorizing violations of these proposed laws as a daily Class 1 misdemeanor is overly punitive and appears designed to intimidate farmers. Stating that all herd share members assume liability for anything associated with the herd is designed to scare off participants.

I have participated in a herd share since 2011, apart from three years when I moved out of state and was unable to obtain raw milk. I am a veterinarian, so I am quite aware of the purpose of pasteurization and the risks of diseases. Pasteurization was a great scientific advance when disease transmission was just beginning to be understood, or for farms that are unwilling or unable to keep their cows and milk healthy and clean. I am also aware that with modern infectious disease knowledge, farms that WANT to can take very careful steps for sanitation and guarding against disease. I checked on the disease testing of my herd share farm before I signed up. I believe that small-farm-produced unheated milk provides omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins not destroyed by heat, healthy GI flora, and enzymes such as lactase. Until I drank unheated milk regularly, I was lactose intolerant my entire life. Now, thanks to the lactase I have gotten from raw milk, I can drink that millk as well as consume any other dairy product without problem.

Please oppose HB 825 and SB 962, and allow private citizens to continue making personal choices and contracts according to what they believe is best for their health.

Miles Cowan writes:

Please do not pass this bill. It hurts small farms and families and only continues to support big corporate businesses.

Robert Cunningham writes:

A "fix" for a "problem" which doesn't exist. Yet another example of a politician bought by the Grocery Manufacturers lobby.

Christy Rees writes:

I oppose this bill. As a current share holder I do not need this to keep me "safe". As a taxpayer I feel that this is an unnecessary use of money on unnecessary government regulation.

Linda Hosay writes:

I agree with all of the above comments; particularly that these bills are designed to "fix" a problem that soesn't exist. If consuming raw dairy were as dangerous as these bills (and VADACS) would have us believe; who of us (or them) would be here? All of us are descendants of raw dairy consumers. Rather, these bills are an attempt to use the government and the "strong arm of the law," to eliminate competition with industrial dairy. There is no need to protect the general public from raw dairy, as the general public is unlikely to go to the effort to obtain it. Those of us who do make that effort are unlikely to do so blindly. It is a matter of conscious and considered CHOICE. These bills would also force an unwanted and unnecessary intrusion into the right to privately contract; the right to privacy; and the rights of personal property. These bills are a blatant example of government over-reach. We don't need the government to be our nanny.

Jeremiah Hill writes:

Please vote NO on HB 825 and SB 962. As a new cow owner these bills will hurt my family. These bills are not needed and take the chance for others to choose what they want to eat.

Ram writes:

Unnecessary BILL. This should not be passed. Another example of Corporate lobbying money taking away freedom and dictating how people live.

Dan Lefever writes:

I want to second all the previous comments. I see this as a vested interest trying to put the squeeze on anyone wanting to share the upkeep and production from their dairy animal. As a former resident of Pennsylvania for 60 years; I know that raw milk has been sold from dairy farms to the consumer in that state for 40 years and I never once in that time heard of anyone getting sick or dying from its consumption. I am opposed to the unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion by the state in to my private decision to consume the foods I deem safe. Please oppose HB825 and SB962.

Pam P Marraccini writes:

I am opposed to these bills. They are an unnecessary intrusion into private property rights. Small farms are the backbone of this country and taking steps to overburden our small farm farmers is taking many steps backward. Please do not support these bills.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

As a former resident of Pennsylvania for 60 years; I know that raw milk has been sold from dairy farms to the consumer in that state for 40 years and I never once in that time heard of anyone getting sick or dying from its consumption.

I'm a raw milk fan. I've gone in on a herd share. But you don't do your cause any favors by saying this kind of thing. Googling for "raw milk sick pennsylvania" reveals that 78 people got sick from campylobacter from raw milk from a dairy in Chambergsburg, PA in 2012. Nine people were hospitalized. Between 2006–2012 there were seven outbreaks of campylobacter and salmonella, resulting from raw milk consumption, with nearly 200 people sickened.

There are a lot of good reasons not to regulate raw milk sales further, and a lot of good arguments as to why raw milk is no more dangerous than, say, raw bean sprouts. But a crucial part of lobbying effectively is doing so honestly. If you tell a legislator "nobody's gotten sick off raw milk in Pennsylvania in 40 years," and then they learn from a supporter of this legislation that this isn't true, you've lost all credibility and harmed your cause. Please don't do that.

Mary-Ellen Garner writes:

This bill is unnecessary and unwanted by all who drink and produce raw milk (even the cows would agree). Please vote no.

Deverell Pedersen writes:

As a devoted consumer of small farm produced food, including raw milk via a local herdshare program, I must express my disappointment - maybe FURY is a better word, over this bill. I recently visited Del. White's website and read about how he understands farmers because he is one. Clearly, he is of the conventional variety, as a farmer who honors the land and the animals would never entertain such an obvious concession to big Ag. The hyprocrisy is astounding.

First of all, herd shares are already regulated adequately. Milk is not being sold to the public, only to those who elect to join a herdshare program. Nobody goes to the effort to do that without full awareness of the risk they are taking. Stop treating us like children. The Commonwealth is NOT MY MOTHER! Who exactly is getting sick? Nobody. I run a much higher risk ingesting almost anything a conventional supermarket carries,l but I don't need a contract to do that. Sir, do you know why the bulk of the milk in a supermarket is ultra-pasteurized? It is because the milk is so unclean that big producers feel they cannot risk NOT sterilizing it. Since it has no nutritional value, it is merely one more belly filler. American diets already have enough belly fillers and far too little true nutrition. Do you know how much milk is thrown away in my daughter's school every day? Each school lunch automatically includes a carton of commercially produced ultra-pasteurized milk. All of it ends up in the trash because it is notoriously horrid and the children will not drink it. Raw milk, by contrast, is as delicious as it is nutritious. It carries a wide array of beneficial enzymes which help to digest the milk and the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) are easily absorbed because the cream has not been destroyed or skimmed off. It is very hard work to maintain a simple, clean diet in a processed world, and this bill is only going to make it harder.

My herd share is with a small local farm. I can talk to my farmer and see what her cows are fed. She has a vested interest in maintaining the quality of her milk because she knows the neighbors who will consume it. Who has such incentive in a faceless, corporate farm? Requiring my modest farm to slap a warning label on every bottle of milk they provide to those of us who own the cows is ludicrous. The labels must then be scraped off in order to keep the bottles clean in the sterilizer. Labels are sticky and the glue is tenacious. This will add another 2 hours of labor for my farm every day. They don't have that kind of time and are certainly not in the position to hire a part time worker just to deal with printing, labelling and scraping the jars. The requirement is burdensome and jeopardizes my farm, and therefore my milk access.

Existing regulations already provide for the state's ability to obtain a warrant to inspect a farm WITH CAUSE. VDACS is a big enough bully as it is. How can you justify giving them another big stick? This bill seems designed to intimidate both farmers and herd share owners and provides far too much latitude to the state intruding on a PRIVATE CONTRACT.

On face, this bill appears to be nothing more than a transparent attempt to wrest control from individual consumers and force us to live and eat at the mercy of big business. Shame on you, Del. White for sponsoring it (and shame on Sen. Obenshain for sponsoring the senate version).

Sarah Green writes:

I ask that our Delegates and Senators head the voice of their consituents who care about small family farm businesses. Please vote no on this upcoming bill, it infringes upon the rights of farmers and their heard sharers.

Keith Robinson writes:

I urge our Virginia legislators to vote NO on this bill; it epitomizes the intrusive administrative state interposing itself between citizens making their own food decisions, puts an additional burden on small family farms, and erodes the privacy rights of both farmers and consumers.

Georgia Haverty writes:

I am a farmer (apples and beef cattle) and travel 45 minutes round trip to pick up my herd share milk. I also go to other farms to get my chickens, eggs, pork, and Thanksgiving turkey. I do this because obviously more "regulations" have not made commercial food safer or better, nor improved the living conditions of our livestock.

I oppose this bill. We need more Virginia farmers who retail their products in order to grow and stay in business. Virginia promotes agri-business and direct marketing. What are you doing?

Georgia Haverty
Doe Creek Farm

Jeni O'Neill writes:

I see that this bill was assigned to subcommittee, "House Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources - Subcommittee #1 Committee" and was on the agenda for Monday 2/5. However, at Del. Knight's request, it was struck at this meeting. Does this mean that it's dead? Or will they just reschedule it?

Kim M Wiley writes:

Leave small farmers alone. No need for any regulations on herd shares. If someone does not like how herd shares are done, don't try to change it, simply buy your milk at your local grocery. Or get your own cow and do as you please for your family.

Chris Nestor writes:

I am interested in hearing why the sponsors of this bill think it is in the public interest. It should raise an interesting debate. It's disappointing to see something this intrusive and unnecessary sponsored by republicans. As mentioned earlier, this is nothing more than an attempt to restrict food freedom. If this was suggested by a lobbyist, it would be entertaining to know who it was.