No changes were made

I was amused by the statement from John Beers, with the Virginia Department of Agriculture, in the article "Cheese reprieve: Delay good news for feisty farmers" [Newsbiz, February 19, 2004].

Beers stated that Solem's and Coles' vigorous opposition to the regulations was a good thing in that the regulations underwent a more extensive review because of it. He specifically stated, "They're better regulations than they would have been otherwise."

I was president of the Virginia State Dairy Goat Association and sat on the advisory panel reviewing the incipient proposed cheese regulations in April of 2001.

I can state with authority that not one word in these regulations was ever changed to accommodate small farmers desiring exemptions from the regulations for on-farm/farmers' market sales, in spite of requests from the advisory panel, well over 100 letters demanding such exemptions received during the first public comment period, and well over 200 received during the second. In fact, no substantive changes of any kind were made to these regulations from day one.

In addition, on August 23, 2001, the Board of Agriculture, in a closed session, denied my formal request for an evidentiary hearing with respect to safety concerns connected to farmers selling their own farm-produced goat cheese direct to the final consumer either at the farm or at local farmers' markets.

It would appear that Beer's definition of "extensive review" is a bit narrow.

Christine Solem
Albemarle County