It’s been another busy session for raw milk legislation in the state legislatures. A number of bills have been introduced that would legalize or expand raw milk sales or distribution. No legislation has passed yet, but there is still a chance in several states where legislatures will be in session until later in the year. The states where raw milk bills have been introduced include the following:
The Home Dairy Farm Raw Milk Safety Act (AB 2505) has been introduced in the California General Assembly. The bill would allow unlicensed on-farm sales direct to the consumer where the farm has no more than three (3) lactating dairy cows or fifteen (15) lactating goats or sheep. There are sanitary, testing, and labeling requirements in the bill; but farmers would not be inspected for compliance with those requirements unless there is a consumer complaint or “other reliable source of information” that the “raw milk produced or sold by a dairy farm may be adulterated or otherwise unsafe for human consumption.”
At the present time, only the licensed sale of raw milk is legal in California; there are currently only a handful of dairies that are licensed. AB 2505 was assigned March 13 to the General Assembly Committee on Agriculture and a hearing was held on April 9; the bill was held without recommendation.
House Bill 718 (HB 718) would have allowed the retail sale of raw milk to consumers if the milk “is conspicuously labeled or identified as ‘Ungraded Raw Milk’.” The bill had a hearing in the House Committee of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs but was not voted out.
Senate Bill 2562 (SB 2562) would legalize herdshare arrangements allowing the distribution of any raw dairy product to the owner of a cow, goat or sheep or the owner of a share in a cow, goat or sheep. If passed into law, farms operating herdshares must register with the state department of health, must provide a warning statement to consumers that the milk is not pasteurized, and must give the consumers information describing the standards the farm uses with respect to herd health and the product of raw milk or raw milk products.
A companion House Bill (HB 1987) was also introduced and referred January 21 to three House committees: Agriculture (AGR), Health (HLT), and Finance (FIN). The bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee after testimony in favor of the bill by the Hawaii Farmers Union and others but has been deferred by the Health Committee.
House Bill 247 (HB 247) would legalize the on-farm sale of cow and goat milk as long as the average monthly quantity of raw milk the farm sells does not exceed 500 gallons. There is a requirement that signs posted at the point of sale and labels on the milk bottle both contain the following statement:
“This product, sold for personal use and not for resale, is fresh whole milk that has NOT been pasteurized. Neither this farm nor the milk sold by this farm has been inspected by the state of Louisiana. The consumer assumes all liability for health issues that may result from the consumption of this product.”
HB 247 also allows the on-farm sale of raw cow’s or goat’s milk cheese as long as the cheese is aged for sixty days. The bill gives the state Department of Health and Hospitals the authority to issue any rules necessary for the administration of the proposed law.
HB 247 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development.
LD 1786 (HP 1278) would allow the unlicensed on-farm sale of raw milk and raw milk products as long as the consumer has the opportunity to inspect the farm; products sold are to have a label with the statement, “This food has been produced at a facility that is exempt from licensing and inspection by the State of Maine.
The power of the state to inspect does remain under the bill if there is reason to believe that a dairy product produced under the exemption is adulterated. LD 1786 prohibits any written advertising.
Current state law allows the licensed sale of raw milk on the farm, at farmers markets and in retail stores. Prior to 2009, the policy of the state was to allow unlicensed on-farm sales of raw milk.
LD 1786 was referred to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; the committee has held a hearing where representatives for the state Department of Agriculture, Maine Farm Bureau and the Maine Cheese Guild all testified in favor of the bill. LD 1786 died in the Senate.
Two raw milk bills have been introduced in Maryland this session. House Bill 3 (HB 3) would have legalized herdshare agreements and exempted them from regulation as long as the consumer with the ownership interest in a dairy animal or herd of dairy animals entered into a written contract with the farmer related to the boarding of the animal(s). The bill would have allowed for the distribution of raw milk and raw milk products to shareholders.
HB 3 had a hearing before the Health and Government Operations Committee but was tabled and withdrawn on March 24. There will be a workgroup formed this spring to study the legalization of raw milk in Maryland.
Senate Bill 1092 (SB 1092) would legalize the sale of raw milk as long as the farmer (1) registered with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, (2) entered into a contract with the consumer, (3) complied with recordkeeping requirements, and (4) followed sanitary and testing standards. The same version of this bill was originally introduced in 2009. SB 1092 has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
House Bill 3857 (HB 3857) would allow licensed raw milk farmers (or the farmer’s agent) to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer off the farm as long as the consumer has a direct, contractual relationship with the farm. The farmer can also make delivery through a community supported agriculture (CSA) group. Delivery can be made to the consumer’s residence or to a drop-site but, with the exception of CSA delivery, not in a retail site.
Originally introduced in January 2013 as HB 717, which was assigned to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, HB 3857 was sponsored by the committee as a replacement bill with the same language. HB 3857 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
House Bill 862 (HB 862) and Senate Bill 2765 (SB 2765) both stated that nothing in the law “shall be construed as prohibiting the independent or partial owner of any hoofed mammal…from using the milk from the mammal for the owner’s personal consumption or other personal use.” Both bills died in committee.
Senate Bill 1285 (S 1285) would legalize the licensed sale of raw milk and raw milk products direct to the consumer and at retail stores. Producers would be subject to inspection and testing requirements and must post warnings on the premises and bottle labels stating that raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization. The permit program would be funded by a permit fee to cover the costs of the state Department of Agriculture administering the program.
S 1285 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Growth.
Assembly Bill 543 (A 543) is similar to the senate bill with the main differences being that sales would be restricted to the farm where the milk is produced and the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Senior Services would have joint jurisdiction over raw milk producers. The raw milk permit fee would need to be in an amount to cover the costs of both departments administering the program.
A 543 has been referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Senate Bill 2224 (SB 2224) would legalize the licensed sale of raw milk at retail as long as the raw milk met the bill’s labeling requirements, was sold no longer than five days from the time the container was filled, and the seller posted signage in the area where the raw milk was sold with the warning statement, “Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health.” The state milk commission is given rule-making power to issue regulations for the handling and sale of raw milk. Producers who sell less than twenty quarts of milk per day or cream made from less than twenty quarts of milk per day are exempt from the licensing requirement.
SB 2224 was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services; the committee recommended that the bill be held for further study.
Senate Bill 126 (SB 126) would have allowed the unlicensed sale of raw milk and raw milk products direct to the consumer; current law prohibits the sale of raw milk without a license. The bill had labeling and testing requirements; but those producing, selling, trading or bartering less than an average of five hundred gallons of raw milk per month were exempt from any regulation.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services but was tabled when the raw milk and small farm advocacy group, Dakota Rural Action, and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture reached an agreement to create a workgroup charged with evaluating the current statutes and regulations on raw milk and discussing ways to improve the regulatory climate for raw milk producers in the state.
House Bill 4274 (HB 4274) would legalize the sale of raw milk, with the commissioner of agriculture being charged with proposing rules and regulatory standards on milk sales for legislative approval. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources; if it passes out of that committee, HB 4274 must then go before the House Committee on Health and Human Resources.
A companion bill, Senate Bill 478 (SB 478), has also been introduced. SB 478 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development; if the bill passes out of that committee, it will move on to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
Another bill that has been introduced, House Bill 4273 (HB 4273), would legalize distribution of raw milk through herdshare agreements. The bill would charge the commissioner of agriculture with proposing rules and regulatory standards on herdshares for legislative approval. HB 4273 passed out of the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources and is now before the House Committee on Health and Human Resources.
Finally, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 79 has been introduced. The resolution requests that “the Joint Committee on Government and Finance conduct a study of topics related to developing cottage food industries and small farms in West Virginia,” focusing on raw milk, among other foods.
Senate Bill 236 (SB 236) in its original form would have legalized the unlicensed sale of raw milk if the raw milk producer complied with registration, labeling, signage, and testing requirements. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Rural Issues which passed an amended version of SB 236.
The amended version allows a dairy holding a milk producer license (which all Wisconsin dairies selling milk for pasteurization must have) to obtain a Grade 1 unpasteurized milk permit to sell raw milk if sampling, testing, signage, labeling, and record keeping requirements are met. The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Affairs will inspect the Grade 1 dairies at least once every two years.
SB 236 failed to pass by Senate resolution, in which bills at the end of the session are disposed.