During the decade when I was doing public affairs work on my own hook, I briefly did some preliminary work for a group that wanted to build a NASCAR track. It exposed me to NASCAR’s scoring system for weighing the merits of one driver against the others as the season progresses. If the bosses would just give me a couple weeks off with pay, I could develop such a scoring system for the “raw milk wars.”
As changes are made to state laws and regulations involving raw milk, I really haven’t been able to tell who is ahead on a net basis. I am pretty sure we could come up with a point system to solve that problem, but, without it, there are just too many pieces to this subject to say who, on a 50-state basis, is winning this never-ending war.
As promised, State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, has introduced Senate Bill 236, allowing commercial sales of raw milk, into Wisconsin’s year-round Legislature. This coming Wednesday, Sept. 11, the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions will hear the bill.
It appears to be pretty much the same bill Grothman introduced more than two years ago before pulling it back and lying in the weeds for a better time.
His latest effort comes after a Wisconsin jury found raw-milk outlaw Vernon Hershberger not guilty of various bureaucratic infractions, such as doing business without licenses, and guilty solely of breaking a state hold on his product.
It’s an up time for food celebrities and raw-milk adherents in Wisconsin, so it’s best for Grothman to move now before the state sees its next outbreak from raw-milk products.
The last time the Wisconsin Legislature voted to make commercial sales of raw milk legal was in 2010, but former Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill and his veto held up. His outgoing administration then named the Raw Milk Policy Working Group, which came up with a 261-page report telling how raw milk might be produced and sold in as safe a manner as possible.
Grothman continues to ignore that report. Indeed, there is no evidence that he has ever read it.
His bill requires dairy farmers who want to sell raw milk to register with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, use clean containers and label the milk as non-pasteurized. The dairy would have to post a sign stating, “Raw milk products sold here. Raw milk products are not pasteurized.”
After that, it gets a little complicated. A “Grade A” dairy selling milk to a licensed dairy plant could also divert some raw milk for direct sale to the public. If the dairy does not have a “Grade A” permit, it would still be required to meet those standards for appearance, odor, bacterial count, drug residues, somatic cell count, temperature, pesticides and water supply.
But the fiscal note prepared for the bill states that the department is going to face a challenge of applying those “Grade A” requirements to a “Grade B” producer who opts to sell raw milk. The bill presents unknown costs not covered by fees, according to the analysis.
The bill, which runs just over three pages, also allows the sale of buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, whey, ice cream, butter and cheese made with raw milk.
Lining up against SB 236 are the Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Wisconsin Grocers Association, along with health advocacy organizations, including the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Nurses Association, Wisconsin Public Health Association and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association.
The Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Board also oppose it. The public hearing begins at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11 in Room 411 South of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
Like NASCAR, I think there are enough twists and turns to state raw-milk policies that we are going to have to come up with a scoring system for keeping track of it all. I’ll get back to you on that one.
© Food Safety News