OPINION – It came as a huge surprise when I recently learned that just a few years ago my family had been rubbing shoulders with a criminal organization. Honestly, they seemed like such nice people.
It started with a knock on our door from a neighbor we’ll call Brother Clyde. He and his wife Sister Bonnie were standing on our doorstep with a couple of gallon glass jars of raw milk. They explained that they had a surplus of fresh milk and didn’t want it to go to waste.
Knowing how quickly our kids could go through a gallon of milk we thanked them for their generosity and gratefully accepted.
A few days later our phone rang. It was our neighbor Mrs. Capone. She told us that she had an extra gallon of fresh milk and wanted to know if we would take it off her hands.
During the next week, yet another neighbor named Mr. Dillinger dropped by with two more gallons of milk to share with us.
By now we had learned that several of the families in our neighborhood had joined together and purchased a milk cow. They pooled their time, money, and manpower to keep their dairy cow fed, milked, and housed in a barn over on Horse Alley.
They worked out a milking rotation where each family was responsible for the morning and evening milking on a specific day and then enjoyed a couple of days off before it was their turn again.
With their cow producing an average of 5 gallons of milk each day, it became common for these families to generously share the excess with many of their neighbors at no charge. Their families simply couldn’t drink the amount of milk their cow was producing.
Typically, there would be an inch or more of pure cream at the top of each jar of milk. We lovingly scooped the cream off and turned it into homemade ice cream, butter, cheese, and other treats.
At the time, none of us had any idea that there was a state law on the books that strictly prohibited this type of neighborly arrangement.
But the awful truth was revealed when I learned about a bill that was heard last week by the Agriculture Committee of the Utah legislature. HB 104 seeks to amend the Utah Dairy Act to reinstate the right to join with others in the acquisition and use of a dairy animal and its products.
Back in 2007, the Utah legislature added language to the Dairy Act that made it illegal for any person to “own, operate, or otherwise participate in a cow sharing program” in Utah. Under the current law, only one person may use the milk from a dairy animal which is their private property.
Why this was enacted in the first place is not entirely clear. What is clear is that the Utah Dairy Association and other commercial producers of milk benefit from this law while private parties wishing to simply keep a dairy animal for personal use do not.
HB 104 would correct this unwarranted infringement of property rights and restore legal participation in cow sharing.
Remember, we’re not talking about people starting a business to market raw milk. This is about private property owners sharing the expense and responsibilities for a dairy animal that is producing milk for their personal use.
It promotes self-sufficiency and a degree of abundance. It is about responsible stewardship over one’s private property. When the state is allowed to claim regulatory power restricting someone from doing something that in no way influences an unwilling second party it is an affront to property rights.
Property rights are inextricably tied to our basic human rights. The proper role of government is to protect those rights, not to manipulate them for the benefit of whomever has the best lobbyists.
It’s issues like this that separate legislators who truly support property rights from the ones who are merely giving lip service. Any person who utters the words, “I support property rights but…”, is either being dishonest or does not understand property rights.
Of course, there are those who oppose cow share programs on the grounds of safety.
Anytime the words “raw milk” are mentioned, the safety cultists are sure to chime in with how this type of needless regulation is saving us from ourselves. We can only wonder how earlier eras of humanity flourished without their permission.
Safety cultists often pose as noble benefactors of mankind. Behind the supposedly altruistic perspective is a thinly veiled control freak wishing to forcefully impose his collectivist notions of “the greater good” upon others.
Waiting until someone actually causes harm and then holding them personally accountable isn’t enough. We’re expected to hold others legally accountable for a presumptive harm that hasn’t actually occurred.
Personally, I’d rather take my chances with the neighborhood outlaws. They at least give me the option of saying, “No, thanks.”
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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