ACTION ALERT – Missouri Raw Milk Bill
State Representative Belinda Harris (D/Hillsboro) is set to introduce a bill to clarify the law on the sale of raw milk in Missouri. Rep. Harris is looking for co-sponsors for her bill before she officially files it. Under state law, once a bill is filed co-sponsors can no longer be added to it. Your help is needed to convince members of the State House of Representatives to sign on as co-sponsors for the bill, particularly those on the House Agriculture Policy Committee and the House Agri-business Special Committee.
There has been a long-standing tradition in Missouri of farmers being able to sell raw milk to consumers without having to obtain a permit to do so. In 1972 this tradition was codified in state law as a statutory exception to the general prohibition on the sale of raw milk. Under the exception, “an individual may purchase and have delivered to him for his own use raw milk or cream from a farm” [Missouri Revised Statutes (MRS) 196.935]. The exception is written from the point of view of the consumer.
The State Milk Board, the agency established to enforce the Missouri Dairy Code, claims that anyone selling under the exception needs a Grade A retail raw milk permit. Until recently, the Milk Board, for the most part, left unlicensed sellers of raw milk alone; but in the summer and fall of 2007, the board sent letters to at least six farmers threatening to turn them over to the Attorney General for possible prosecution unless the farmer either stop selling raw milk or obtain a retail raw milk license.
The Milk Board’s interpretation of the exception, in effect, ignores the Legislature’s intent in passing it and would prevent consumers from purchasing raw milk and cream if accepted as the correct interpretation of the law. There has not been a licensed raw milk retailer in the state in over twelve years. Complying with the licensing requirements to sell retail raw milk would be cost prohibitive for nearly all farmers operating under the exception.
Rep. Harris’ bill would amend MRS 196.935 to make clear that those selling under the exception would not need a license and could only be inspected if there was reasonable cause to believe they were selling adulterated milk.
ACTION TO TAKE
The more co-sponsors the bill has, the greater the likelihood it will get a hearing before either the Agriculture Policy Committee or the Agi-business Special Committee. A bill must go through a House committee before it can go to the House floor for a vote.
Help Rep. Harris to uphold food-freedom of choice and small-farm prosperity by contacting your state representative and the members of the two committees, encouraging them to co-sponsor the bill. Written letters of a page or less are the most effective way to communicate with your representative. If sending emails, be sure to include your name, address and phone number (representatives like to know who is in their district).
Follow this link to find your state representative using your zip+4 code:
Those interested in obtaining a copy of the proposed bill can contact Rep. Harris’ office by email at Belinda.email@example.com or by calling (573) 751-2398.
Below are links to the contact information for each member of the two committees.
AGRICULTURE POLICY COMMITTEE
Quinn, John, Chair
Wright, Billy Pat, Vice Chair
McClanahan, Rebecca Payne
Witte, Terry L
AGRI-BUSINESS SPECIAL COMMITTEE
Munzlinger, Brian, Chair
Fisher, Barney Joe, Vice Chair
Rucker, Martin T.
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