Farmers cry over spilled milk in dispute about hauler's license

Driver lacked Md. permit

4,000 gallons to be dumped

October 30, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Almost everyone has had to throw out a carton of chunky, 2-week-old milk. But 4,000 gallons?

That's how much milk has been spoiling for the past two weeks in an idle tanker truck on a farm in the Keymar area of western Carroll County.

The Pennsylvania company that owns the truck says it will have to dump the milk, with an estimated value of $6,000, because a permit inspector was unwilling to let the driver, who was not licensed to load milk in Maryland, depart the farm.

The standoff has the owner of Clouse Trucking and some area farmers exasperated with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees the handling of milk.

"It's an insult to dairy farmers to see their product dumped out on the ground like this," said Ed Clouse, whose Carlisle, Pa., company is one of the largest milk haulers for Maryland farmers.

He said he is likely to dump the milk any day now and his company will absorb the financial loss.

Farmers said the state inspector followed the letter of the law by condemning the milk but should have sought a compromise.

"They should've found some other way to deal with it," said Myron Wilhide, a longtime Keymar dairy farmer. "It's a whole load of milk sitting there wasting for no reason at all."

A spokesman for DHMH Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini said the secretary wanted to comment on the situation but was unavailable for an interview yesterday afternoon.

Clouse said the inspector confronted his driver on the morning of Oct. 15, when the driver had reached the last of the farms from which he picks up milk to deliver for processing.

Clouse said he had sent a check to pay for the driver's Maryland permit but had not received the permit.

When approached by the inspector, the driver showed his Pennsylvania permit, Clouse said, and the inspector would not accept the permit, ordering the driver not to leave Keymar with the milk.

Clouse said he attempted to negotiate a compromise with Maryland officials, offering to pay a fine instead of dumping the whole load, but got nowhere.

Pennsylvania milk officials, who also deal with Clouse, said they had never heard of such an approach to permit enforcement.

"We probably would not have handled it the way Maryland did," said Doug Eberly of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board. "We're not going to make anybody dump their milk."

Eberly said he had not heard Maryland officials' perspective on the situation but said his agency had handed out a small fine in a similar case.

Farmers agreed that the situation is unusual.

"Yes, it is - I mean milk inspectors do come around and check drivers, but most of the time, they have the proper permits," said Cameron Davis, a longtime Union Bridge dairy farmer who serves as president of the Maryland Holstein Association.

Davis said it is unfortunate the milk will be dumped but said drivers should have permits if they want to haul in Maryland.

"That's the rules," he said. "It's just one of those things where if they let that slide, then they might start to let other things slide, too."

But rules or no rules, Clouse said, he deserved more consideration.

"Why would you waste good food instead of just giving us a small fine?" he asked yesterday.

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