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Vegas Raw Milk Supplier Needs Some Luck in Carson City

A business plan announced a year ago for selling raw milk at retail outlets in Las Vegas and other locations around Nevada will fail unless it can surmount a critical legislative barrier on or before April 12.  The plan, announced in April 2012, is for Amargosa Creamery to operate a small dairy to produce raw milk, mostly for the Las Vegas market. It would begin with ten milk cows and expand up to 60.

For it to work, Nye County had to establish a county milk commission, which it happily did late last year. But under existing state law, that only means the Amargosa Creamery can sell raw milk and raw milk products in Nye County.

Nevada law allows “certified” raw milk to be sold anywhere in the state, but the existing law does not give that certification power to the county milk commissions. Located north, northwest of Las Vegas, with more than 18,000 square miles, Nye County is a huge landmass, but has fewer than 50,000 people. For the business plan to work, the Nye County raw milk producer needs to change state law.

That’s why, to work, the business plan needs Assembly Bill 209. Otherwise, Amargosa Creamery cannot sell its raw milk or raw milk products outside of Nye County and that’s not a big enough market.

“As Nevada Revised Statutes 584 currently reads, there is no statement expressly giving permission to producers of raw milk to sell their raw milk ‘anywhere in this state,’” the Southern Nevada Health District wrote in opposing AB 209. “The addition of this provision removes the ability to exclude raw milk from sale in counties within Nevada who do not allow raw milk and who do not have a “county milk commission,” specifically.

AB 209, currently assigned to the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, was the subject on a March 22 public hearing, but has not moved since then. It faces the April 12 deadline for a bill to approved by at least one house.

At least one Californian is interested enough in the fate of AB 209 that he drove over to the hearing in Carson City from his headquarters in Fresno. Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Dairy Co., provided numerous “counter-points” to testimony provided by U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials.

McAfee, America’s largest raw producer demonstrated his knowledge of the Nevada market, saying, “Nevada consumers should not be forced to rendezvous in Lake Tahoe with an ice chest to get raw milk from another state. Nevada should be able to feed and provide for itself.”

Nevada is not without dairy cows. Operated by Rockview Farms, the Ponderosa Dairy , currently operating in Amargosa Valley, produces more than 81,000 pounds a day with the production of 10,000 dairy cows.

Meanwhile, Nevada lawmakers are caught between conflicting views about raw milk.

The Southern Nevada Health District says, “Raw milk and the known pathogenic organisms found in it are a significant threat to public health and safety. The diseases that are produced by these pathogens have huge human and financial costs.”

McAfree says in states where raw milk is legal, the only problem is keeping up with demand.

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