Proposed changes to the Wyoming Food Safety Rules put the Cowboy State no closer to allowing commercial sales of raw milk, leaving advocates for retail sales disappointed.
Wyoming is one of 20 states that bans the commercial sale of raw milk. That position is not changing, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. Current law even bans farm families from drinking their own raw milk, but it’s never been enforced that way.
So the proposed rule is being clarified to allow producers who are the sole owners of animals to serve raw milk in their home to family members, non-paying guests, and farm and ranch employees.
That clarification is included in revisions to the Wyoming Food Safety Rules that the department proposed last May, which are subject to a public comment period and hearing. At a forum in Casper last week, raw milk advocates showed up to push for retail sales of raw milk as permitted in California.
A veteran of the legislative tussles over raw milk sales, state Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) sought a more simple and specific change in the rule’s language. She proposed removing the word “sole” from the ownership requirement.
Wallis, first elected to the Wyoming House in 2006, is currently seeking election to her fourth term.
The Casper Star Tribune quoted Wallis as saying, “Because people want fresh milk today, the only way they can get it is to make a deal with somebody who has the capacity to keep a cow.”
Wallis participates in a cow share agreement with someone who cares for the animal and delivers milk to her family ranch on the Bitter Creek in Wyoming’s northern Campbell County. The department promised to have her suggestion reviewed by the Wyoming attorney general.
On her campaign website, Wallis has collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition objecting to the proposed Rules because they would be taking away the right to own a share of a goat or cow in Wyoming.
“If adopted this rule would be a wholesale taking of private property, and would eliminate the right of a Wyoming citizen who does not live where cows or goats can be kept to choose the fresh food that they seek for themselves and their family,” she says in the petition.
The number of Wyoming residents obtaining raw milk through cow shares arrangements is not known, but the practice is believed to be widespread in the lightly populated state. Wallis, a mother of seven, has tried several times since elected to the Wyoming House to legally recognize cow share arrangements.
Cow shares were last voted down as a legal mechanism for obtaining raw milk in January 2011 by a 6-3 vote of the Wyoming House Agriculture Committee. Dean Finkenbinder, Wyoming’s consumer health services manager, said he does not know if the Agriculture Department could make herd sales legal on its own.
Milk that is not pasteurized is called raw or fresh, or sometimes “fresh unprocessed milk.” It comes directly from cows, goats, or sheep without the heat treatment known as pasteurization to kill harmful bacteria. Infants and children may suffer permanent damage from diseases spread by raw milk because the immune systems of youngsters are not fully developed.
While French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed this process of germ killing as early as 1862, pasteurization was not adopted in the U.S. until the first half of the 20th century after several major cities experienced deadly outbreaks caused by raw milk, during which hundreds hundreds were killed and thousands were sickened.
The main supporters of commercial raw milk sale include individuals who claim that health benefits can be obtained by drinking raw milk and dairy farmers who’d see raw milk sales as more lucrative that selling milk after pasteurization.
Wyoming did not make any changes to rules involving any other raw agricultural commodities, including leafy greens. The rule says that when leafy greens are cut from the field at the stem and washing, they are not considered processed. Also, ungraded eggs may continue to be sold at farmers markets and to consumers so long as they are properly labeled.© Food Safety News