The Montana Alliance for Raw Milk (MTARM) fell just one vote short Thursday, meaning it will remain illegal for anyone in the Big Sky state to sell raw milk for human consumption.
But instead of mourning the second death of their bill in the Senate, raw milk advocates said the Senate amendments made the bill unworkable for small producers and said they were glad it went down.
House Bill 574, sponsored by state Rep. Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) went from a lofty 96-to-3 vote in the House last month to failing to achieve the 34 votes it needed in the Senate Tuesday when it garnered only a 29-to-21 favorable vote.
Then on Thursday MTARM rallied to get another final vote on HB 574 through reconsideration. It got the vote, but still fell short of the two-thirds majorioty required with a 32-17 vote. (With 49 voting, 33 “yea” votes were required for a supermajority.)
The bill to allow certain small farms and ranches to sell raw milk and raw milk products went through the House stripped of even modest regulatory requirements. One of these was to shift liability to illnesses and deaths caused by raw milk from the producer and State of Montana to the consumer.
But under Montana’s constitution , a two-thirds vote is required when you do something involving government liability. That’s what set HB 574 up for its eventual demise. For although the state Senate attempted to make the bill more reasonable through amendment by reestablishing some of the state Department of Livestock’s normal regulatory oversight, the bill remained a “bridge too far” for the Senate.
The Alliance wanted to get the bill to a Conference Committee, but that’s now considered highly unlikely, especially with the Montana Legislature scheduled to adjourn on April 27. As it ran into the first dead-end in the Senate, the Alliance wanted to keep the bill alive long enough to get to a conference committee.
The raw milk bill received 39 votes on its second reading in the Senate, but then fell short. At its high watermark, a dozen Montana Democrats supported the bill, prompting online scribe James Conner who writes the Flathead Memo to comment on the Ds falling “Under the manure wagon.”
“The willingness of Democrats to throw public health considerations under the manure wagon is especially disheartening,” Conner wrote. “Why do the same legislators who are working their tails off to expand Medicaid in Montana refused to kill legislation that legalizes the sale of raw milk, a product long proved to be dangerous, especially to children?”
According to its “Update and Alert,” the Montana Alliance for Raw Milk wanted to get a bill passed this year so it could establish “a proven track-record of the safety of raw milk to build on.”
Edmunds, who is an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014, has emerged as raw milk’s No. 1 advocate with his sponsorship of the bill. Edmunds is a veteran of the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Service who is now a mortgage banker in Missoula.© Food Safety News