Raw Milk: Branan and Day Present on Cow Sharing Agreements

— Written By

Andrew Branan, Extension Assistant Professor with the NC State University Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, along with Marti Day, Extension Dairy Specialist, gave a brief presentation regarding North Carolina’s de facto permission to dispense unpasteurized milk under a cow-sharing agreement. The presentation, delivered at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Annual Organic Livestock and Commodities Conference, outlined health risk concerns and legal issues surrounding such agreements for consumers and producers.

Branan’s portion of the presentation can be found here:  Legal Issues Related to Cow Share Arrangements in North Carolina

Via small changes to North Carolina’s prohibition on the sale of raw milk in the Farm Act of 2018, unpasteurized milk dispensed to an owner (or partial owner) of a lactating animal is not considered a sale of milk under North Carolina law, and is therefore not regulated by the state. Unpasteurized milk sold to others without an ownership of the lactating animal must still be conspicuously labeled as “pet milk” under proper N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services permit. NCDA&CS still retains the authority to respond to public health emergencies.

Branan and Day discussed a number of questions concerning the new law in relation to agister agreements – the agreement between the “farmer” and the partial “owner(s)” of the animal that includes the dispensing of milk from the animal – as well as potential farmer liability (and contractual waiver) for injury to a consumer receiving unpasteurized milk under such agreement. Such agreements usually involve fees for such service. Branan discussed legal cases concerning agister agreements in other states where courts found such agreements to be disguised sales of raw milk.

Both Branan and Day agreed that the test of such agreements will have to wait until such time there is a health emergency or injury giving rise to a potential claim for liability, or perhaps a contract disagreement over services – and milk – provided by the agister to a partial owner of the lactating animal in question.