Arkfeld’s grassroots efforts helps passage of raw milk bill
STATEWIDE — A Harlan woman was instrumental in the recent passage of Iowa Legislation allowing the sale of raw milk.
“Raw milk has been a part of our family since before we moved here,” Arkfeld said.
When Esther Arkfeld’s ten-year-old daughter was an infant, she was unable to tolerate any baby formula. Since breast feeding was not an option, both the parents and their pediatrician were at a loss of ideas to help her thrive. Someone recommend making formula from raw goat’s milk.
“We were desperate, so we gave it a try. From the first bottle, she stopped throwing up.”
At the time, the Arkfelds were living in Georgia, where they were able to access raw milk.
“I went to a farm, I did my due diligence and research, and that’s how it started,” Arkfeld said, noting she grew up in Europe where consumption of raw milk is common.
Raw milk is milk directly from the animal that produces it, without going through the pasteurization process first. Pasteurization involves heating a substance, such as milk, for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature.
The U.S. began pasteurizing milk in the 1920’s. By 1987, the Food and Drug Administration made the sale of raw milk across state lines illegal, however, some states recently have began to allow the sale of unpasteurized milk within their borders.
Once the Arkfelds moved to Iowa, she was surprised to find raw milk was not only unavailable, it was illegal.
Iowa was one of only five states in the country where access to raw milk was against the law.
“People looked at me like I had three eyes. It wasn’t allowed here, which I found very strange, because it’s a food item.”
“We were the only Midwestern state where it wasn’t available,”Arkfeld said. “All the states around us were allowing it in one way or another.”
She became more involved with the cause four years ago, when she saw a bill proposed to the Iowa Legislature had failed.
Arkfeld spoke to her local state officials, including Representative Steve Holt (R-Denison) and Senator Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig). Senator Schultz had been trying to pass this law for over 17 years.
Schlultz introduced her to Tom German, a resident of a Ida County. German had worked with Schultz for years on the raw milk legislation.
“I said I want to help, it’s something I feel very strongly about.”
Arkfeld joined German in leading a grass roots effort earning support from other Iowans.
“We were involved with testifying in support of the bill, gathering support from legislators across the state, and verbiage for the bill,” Arkfeld said.
It is estimated only 3% of the U.S. population consumes raw dairy. “It’s definitely a small niche market,” Arkfeld said, but people are definitely looking for raw milk products.”
German and Arkfeld also encouraged other supporters of the bill to contact their local representatives.
“As more and more people got involved, we got more and more support,” she said.
Last year was the first time the bill passed one of the chamber floors. It was approved by the Iowa Senate, but was killed once it got to the House of Representatives.
“This year, we were able to run it through both the Senate and the House. It made it to the Governor’s Desk, and we were able to be there for that,” Arkfeld said.
The bill, named Senate File 315, passed both the Iowa Senate (37-13) and House (64-35 vote) in April.
Last Thursday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law, with Esther Arkfeld watching.
The law will go into effect July 1, and will allow farms with no more than 10 lactating animals to sell raw milk and raw milk products from the farm.
The products may not be sold “off-farm” including farmers markets and restaurants. The raw milk must carry warning labels, and bacteria testing and records must be available to customers.
Arkfeld said she will have fresh, raw milk available at her micro-dairy on her acreage outside of Harlan once the law is in effect July 1. More information may be found on the website https://www.demelkerijfarm.com/
She said food supply issues during COVID and last year’s infant formula shortage made fighting for the passage of the bill more of a moral issue.
“Milk is a food staple; this was a food freedom issue.”
Arkfeld said she was reminded of the quote, “Freedom requires participation.”
“We have to get involved. This was something that was important to me. I could do nothing, or I could work to get it changed.”