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News & Press: Legislative Issues

Stricter raw milk sale provisions gain Senate committee support

Wednesday, November 13, 2013  
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November 13 WHN

Raw milk sales took a step toward legalization Tuesday, as the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Rural Issues approved an amended bill to bolster its retail regulations in response to safety concerns.
Senator Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, worked with the bill's author and Legislative Council to create a substitute amendment to the initiative that would make raw milk sale standards nearly identical to those of traditional grade A milk in Wisconsin.
"Hopefully, we will find a way forward on this issue because it's one aspect of the dairy industry that's growing," Schultz said. "It's something that allows small farmers to participate in a world where things seem to be getting bigger."
The committee passed the bill on to the full Senate by a 3-2 vote. Both Democrats on the committee - Sens. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point - voted against the measure due to the potential risk that an outbreak could harm the state's lucrative dairy industry.
"We have invested so much in the dairy industry we cannot jeopardize that industry because of a much smaller contingent who would like to purchase raw milk," Lassa said.
Jauch acknowledged the amendment is much improved from the bill Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, originally introduced, but echoed Lassa's qualms over the detrimental health factors.
"I think they need to come down in the interest of food safety, protecting consumers and protecting the public," he said. "A food-borne illness can destroy the economy."
Under the approved amendment, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection would require monthly testing to confirm the unpasteurized milk is free of bacteria or antibiotic residue. The milk producers are also obliged to take a sample of their product on a daily basis and freeze the sample at least 15 days in case testing is necessary by a lab approved by DATCP, a food safety agency from another state or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. DATCP will also conduct dairy farm inspections every two years.

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