With both its health and its dairy industry, Wisconsin has a lot to protect.
With its high rates for immunizations and high school graduations and low uninsured percentages, Wisconsin is right in the middle when it comes to America’s Health Rankings at 24th best. And when it comes to the dairy industry, not even California can catch it. Wisconsin—America’s Dairyland—is No. 1 with a growing $43.4 billion dairy industry.
When the organizations that exist to protect Wisconsin’s health and the state’s best known industry linkup in Madison to oppose raw milk bills, they’ve been unstoppable. The Coalition for Safe Milk came together after 2010 when the Wisconsin Legislature actually did pass such a bill.
At that time, health providers and dairymen were both reaching out to former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle to request that he veto the raw milk bill. Those concerned about the health of nearly six million “cheeseheads” did not want milk that is not pasteurized sold in the state because “raw milk” is well known for spreading dangerous pathogens.
“America’s Dairyland” did not want the publicity that comes with raw milk outbreaks because that kind of news just isn’t good for business. Six years later, Wisconsin’s health-dairy industry coalition is a power in Madison. Since Gov. Doyle vetoed that 2010 bill, the legislative coalition has held off any and all attempts to legalize raw milk.
This legislative session, however, finds it facing the most serious threat since that bill Doyle vetoed. A bipartisan coalition is said to be behind Assembly Bill (AB697). The bill would make the sale of raw milk and raw milk products legal for sale on the farm where they are produced. A raw milk dairy relying on such on-the-farm sales would then be able to sell non-Grade A milk without pasteurization and without dairy plant or food processing licensing.
Upon introduction, AB697 was assigned to the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. It’s not yet been scheduled for any action.
Wisconsin requires legislative lobbyists to register their intent to support or oppose any bill. AB697 is in for a lot of opposition, much of it coming from organizations involved in the health/dairy industry coalition.
Among the opponents are: the American Family Insurance Group, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Cooperative Network Association, Dairy Business Association, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Board, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Grocers Association, Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Nurses Association, Wisconsin Public Health Association and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association.
The Wisconsin Raw Milk Association filed in support of AB697, which is also being monitored by the Midwest Food Producers Association.
AB697 likely does not comply with the recommendations of the 261-page report with recommendations from Wisconsin dairy and health experts that was prepared in 2011 after Gov. Doyle’s veto. The state’s raw milk advocates have largely ignored the report, which offered recommendations on the safety raw milk.
Even with raw milk sales being illegal in Wisconsin, two schools have been subjected to outbreaks involving non-pasteurize milk since 2010. In both instances, those involved claimed the raw milk was being donated to a school-related event.
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