As I was waiting in the Judiciary conference room, we received awesome news.
The Department of Agriculture withdrew the Emergency rules and the Agency Amended rules that were set forth to be the permanent rules to govern the Herdshare law just minutes before the Legislative Rule-Making Committee would have met (12/6/16).
While this was not expected, and as far as we know, unprecedented, it is an amazing win for us!
Public pressure, noise and social media blitz that has continued for these past few years, as well as the election that puts a raw milk friendly Commissioner into officer (Kent Leonhardt) in January, as well as additional support gained in the legislature post election, all definitely factored in and created this amazing change.
The rules set forth through emergency action by the Department of Agriculture this summer were tp have been in effect for 15 months from the July, had they not been withdrawn Tuesday, even had the legislative body rejected any or all part(s) of the said Ag rules.
So when I entered the Capitol today, I had no hopes of being able to leave knowing that farmers, as of Tuesday, the 6th of December, could operate in a marginally regulated free manner with their herdshare programs from that day forth in West Virginia.
At best, I saw cutting down on 50% of the rules set forth in the summer by Agriculture and farmers being able to operate by this time NEXT YEAR when the emergency rules expired.
What we achieved is a TOTAL withdraw of ALL rules, a Legislative body that decided to add no rules to the law and the ability to operate solely under the LAW as it passed in the spring.
We once again has a perfectly workable herdshare law sans rules.
With the new Commissioner stepping in come January, it is extremely unlikely we will ever see rules from the Department of Agriculture.
I was reminded by the Senate and House members how we had already kept the Health Department out of Rule Making and how we had been able to assure the Department of Agriculture wasn't "required" to create any rules by the legislature's use of the work "May" verses "Shall." The saving grace is in the details, which I remember talking so much about this last year. To think we have this win on top of all of that we so many, some even being farmers said we couldn't do this, is amazing.
I saw farmers will to try to work with the Health Department lobbyist over and over, willing to compromise freedom and small farming's ability to thrive out of desperation over and over during the course of this fight, but we've proven we just had to stay the course.
Essentially, now all a farmer must do is:
Have the dairy herd tested for Brucellosis and Tuberculosis yearly (which can be costly depending on your vet rates and herdsize)
Mail each signed herdshare contract into the Department of Agriculture.
Read the Law here