His office in Little Rock is putting out the word that Gov. Mike Beebe will sign House Bill (HB) 1536, allowing the “incidental sale” of raw milk in Arkansas.
The Arkansas raw milk bill, once thought to be dead, was resurrected for two quick floor votes that by Thursday had put it on Beebee’s desk for signature. Until now, Arkansas banned sales of raw milk in the state. It only allow farms to sell up to 100 gallons of unpasteurized goat’s milk each month.
Under HB 1536, “whole milk” is defined as an unpasteurized product produced on an Arkansas farm. The bill dictates that the “whole milk” should come from “healthy cows, properly fed and kept” that produce a proper mix of butterfat and non-fat solids.
The two-page bill also requires raw milk farms to use signage and labels to warn consumers about the product. Each must say the raw milk is sold for personal use and not for re-sale, and carry a statement that the product was not inspected by the State of Arkansas. Finally, each sign or label must include a statement that consumers assume all the liability for “human health issues that may result from the consumption of this product.”
The Arkansas bill is the first major breakthrough this legislative session for the nation’s raw milk advocates. The bill, which originally called for the state Department of Health to adopt regulatory standards for unpasteurized milk, was dead until it was brought back with that provision removed. In its resurrected form, HB 1536 passed the Arkansas House 60-to-19, followed quickly by a 19-to-11 vote in the Senate.
The two debates, as usual, pitted those who see raw milk as an unnecessary human health risk versus people who want the freedom to buy what they want from local farmers.
Dr. Joe Stallings, a Craighead County health officer, unsuccessfully argued that the Arkansas Legislature should not be “moving the clock back.” He said the 120-year-old process of pasteurization has greatly reduced the numbers of people getting sick and dying from drinking milk. Through pasteurization, 99.9 percent of the harmful bacteria in milk is eliminated, Stallings said.
Drinking raw milk purchased on the farm puts you “in harm’s way,” he added.
Many of those who want the freedom to do so say they grew up drinking raw milk and have not personally experienced any ill effects.
Beebe’s expected signature will make it law. The Democratic governor has served as Arkansas’s chief executive since 2007.
One other state, Montana, is close to a second house vote in favor of raw milk. The Montana House has already passed the bill by a 96-to-3 vote. It was among a pair of bills that got a public hearing Tuesday before the Senate Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee.
The Committee could send the Montana bill to the floor at any time.© Food Safety News