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Wyoming To Loosen Raw Milk Rules, Just A Bit

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
  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    I’m not surprised Slaughterhouse Sue is also for raw milk. She has no concern about food safety when it comes to horse slaughter, why would she care about food safety and raw milk?

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    The “private property” argument fails.
    If the people want to partially own the milk from a single cow, and the farmer pasteurizes it, there’s no problem with them getting access to the milk.
    This isn’t about property rights. This is about using techniques to ensure people do not become seriously ill from drinking the milk.

  • William Sperber

    As I recall, FDA first published the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance in 1923. It remains an outstanding example of a federal regulation that effectively protects the public health. Drinking unpasteurized milk is analogous to not wearing a seat belt or texting while driving.

  • aed939

    Shelly, it is about property rights. State public safety/health agencies do not have the authority to regulate private property. they can only regulate commerce–by definition stuff that is sold in a public market. The state cannot tell you to sort your backyard eggs, and they cannot regulate the tomatoes that you grow for your own consumption even if it is planted in a rented garden plot that is not on your own property.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    aed of course government organizations can regulate any number of things, including “private property”.
    We’re a community not isolated islands where each person lives completely alone and has no impact on those around them.
    State public safety does have a right to regulate issues related to public safety. What do you think they’re for?
    They can’t regulate your garden if you’re planting a small one for your own consumption, but they can if you have a large garden that is causing pollution into water ways, or if you sell the product to others.
    These simplistic “property rights” arguments just irritate me. They’re not even good arguments. There’s not even any fun in the debate.
    They’re nothing more than a plaint about “This is mine. Mine mine mine mine! And I’ll do what I want!”, usually from people who benefit from societal rules (and offerings) on a daily, even hourly basis.
    How many billions of dollars are lost every year because of foodborne illness outbreaks? How much does it cost government entities to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks? How much of a burden is a foodborne illness outbreak on the medical community?
    What we do impacts on those around us.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/bovinity Gordon S Watson

    have you people lost your minds? Here you have the government dictating what a person can or cannot do, with their own private property, right inside your kitchen, yet you haven’t got sense-enough to realize how far-removed you are from the foundational principles of America?
    If the people who sweated and bled and gave their lives for what used to be known as “Liberty”, could see you now, they’d say what Samuel Adams said to the Empire Loyalists, at the start of the War for Independence “depart from us in peace … may the chains of slavery rest lightly on you, and may history forget that you were ever our kinsmen”

  • Jen

    The government most certainly can regulate private property. Building permits, septic permits… gah you have to get a frickin permit to put up a fence on your own property for gods sake.
    If the government has reason to suspect that you are producing food illegally or unsanitarily, or that you are creating some sort of environmental hazard near a stream or whatever it may be.. they cannot just walk on your property and do an inspection. Legally, they have to give you due notice that they are going to inspect – just as police can’t waltz into your home and look around without a warrant. If you still refuse to let them on your property, they have to go to the judge and obtain a warrant to inspect. By that time, you are probably well aware of what is about to ensue, and clean up your act. You can see why inspection of private property is a challenge. That is one of the reasons why many states do not allow retail kitchens in private homes, even if it is a separate kitchen not used by the family. It is difficult to get access to private property to do an inspection. Private property is a touchy subject, and your property rights are right there in constitutional law.

  • Jas

    Point being it is not right that the government has say in this. I’m sorry. I understand everyone is different. Some folks prefer raw milk others prefer pasteurized. That is a choice every American citizen should be able to make on there own. After all this is still America, land of the free. Right? Although the government has a very forward way of making it feel like we are their slaves. It should be each individual persons choice what they choose to eat and drink. It is at there own risk! At the rate the government is going pretty soon they will be telling us when, where and what we can or can’t eat. What time we wake each morning and go to bed each night. What types of under garments we can and can’t wear. Where does it stop? I understand the government does good things for us and that we need them, but they need to know where the line is drawn. We are Americans, we have rights.