Friday, October 19, 2018
 House Passes Raw Milk Compromise  

By Steve Miller

Farmers who produce raw milk will still be able to sell the milk at farmers markets and deliver it to their customers under a bill passed by the South Dakota House of Representatives.

However, farmers who sell raw milk will have to meet certain construction and sanitation standards to receive a state permit, standards that will be difficult to meet for some small farmers, according to a Black Hills milk producer.

The bill, HB 1057, was a compromise written with the help of the state Agriculture Department and Dakota Rural Action, a grassroots, family agriculture and conservation group. The House passed it 66-2. The bill had its first hearing in the Senate on Wednesday.

The Agriculture Department proposed a set of rules on raw milk last fall that drew a spate of protests from raw milk producers and consumers. State Agriculture Secretary Bill Even withdrew the proposed rules and opted to take the issue to the Legislature.

The original version of HB 1057 would have prevented farmers from delivering raw milk to their customers. That provision was dropped before final House action.

Rep. Tom Brunner, R-Nisland, said the bill also decriminalizes the statutes on raw milk, instead providing civil penalties for violations. However, those fines can be as much as $5,000 for each violation.

Brunner said that farmers who produce raw milk for their own use can still use it to barter with neighbors without getting a permit. "Family farms with a cow or two will be left alone," Brunner said.

Brunner, the House Ag Committee chairman, said raw milk producers who wish to sell their product will be required to get a Grade B permit. The permit costs $100 per year, which pays for an annual inspection, plus a monthly $15 milk testing fee.

The new bill does not include some provisions included in the proposed rules last fall. For example, according to the Agriculture Department, the bill does not require producers:

• To keep a customer list.
• To use expensive milking and bottling machines. (Farmers can milk and bottle by hand).
• To build expensive new facilities.
• To conduct expensive tests.

However, to receive a permit to sell raw milk, producers must milk their animals in an enclosed building on a concrete floor rather than dirt, and must have hot water under pressure, good lighting and ventilation, and a milking area separate from a milk room, according to Nathan Sanderson, director of policy for the department.

The restrictive rules proposed last fall would have forced many raw milk producers out of business, said Lila Streff, who milks about 20 goats on her farm south of Custer and sells the raw milk.

Streff said she was glad the Agriculture Department was willing to compromise after it received more than 200 comments protesting the rules. "It's nice to know they listened to the public," she said.

But Streff said the permit standards, especially the barn requirements, are still difficult to meet for many small farmers.

She has a permit and probably won't change her operation, Streff said.

Streff said that, besides the barter system, the only way for raw milk producers to avoid getting a permit is to use the "cow share" program, in which producers sell a share of the animal to consumers. The state interprets that as owners using the milk for their own consumption.

Sanderson said the permit standards are just basic sanitation requirements. "These are the types of things that consumers are looking for, too," he said.

The bill is a good compromise, Sanderson said. "I think we've heard from the raw milk producers, from consumers and we've crafted a bill that we think meets everybody's needs."

Streff and other raw milk producers argue that it contains good bacteria that kill pathogens. They say pasteurization kills both the good and bad bacteria. "It's safer than pasteurized milk," she said. Streff said more people get sick from pasteurized milk than from raw milk.

Sanderson said that's not a valid argument because the vast majority of milk consumed in this country is pasteurized and because most of the illness cases are due to milk that is improperly pasteurized.

"Raw milk has a far greater chance of leading to illness," he said.

Source: Rapid City Journal (SD)


Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 (Archive on Thursday, March 04, 2010)
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