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State Senate Okays Raw Milk Bill, Heads to Assembly
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/16/2010

Wisconsin dairy farmers are another step closer to getting the legal right to sell milk directly from their farms without pasteurizing it first. On Thursday, the State Senate passed the so-called raw milk bill on a 25-8 vote. The legislation would allow Grade A producers to sell the milk through the end of next year if they obtain a license from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, adhere to regular testing, label each bottle as 'unpasteurized,' and include both the producer's name and license number on the label.

The bill was authored by Senator Pat Kreitlow and Rep. Chris Danou, with key amendments drafted in cooperation with Senator Sheila Harsdorf. Danou says the Senate's actions are about 'rural economic development,' and he thinks its a win-win situation for family farmers who have found a way to add value to their businesses. Kreitlow adds that the measure is also about freedom of choice.

"This vote is a major victory for the right of the informed consumer to make their own choices," Kreitlow said. "The passage of the bill will go a long way towards eliminating the black market of illegal raw milk sales that exists as well as addressing the public health concerns that come with it."

Meanwhile, the bill's critics are still urging members of the Assembly to kill the plan when they get their turn to vote on it. Officials from the state's animal health division say the public's health and safety cannot be fully protected if products such as milk are not put through methods like pasteurization to kill bacteria. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau also sent a memo to state legislators on Thursday urging them to stop the bill because of the impact just one disease outbreak could have on the entire dairy industry. They say raw milk can contain several types of disease-causing bacteria including Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Salmonella.

Currently, 25 other states allow raw milk to be sold directly to consumers or through retail outlets.

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