Attempts to liberalize the sale of raw milk appear to be stalled in at least a half dozen or so states around the country. But in Minnesota, spring has brought the introduction of new raw milk bill that would ease restrictions even more than one proposed during the winter.
The new bill (SF1111) made its appearance in St. Paul on April 7 under the sponsorship of state Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge. It would permit the sale of raw (unpasteurized) fluid milk products and raw milk cheese intended for human consumption through direct farm-to-consumer sales, including deliveries.
The raw milk sales would be exempt from pasteurization labeling requirements.
Since it was introduced, the new raw milk bill has been assigned to the Minnesota Senate’s Agriculture and Rural Economies Committee. The committee has not scheduled a hearing on the bill, and has no meetings scheduled for a next week or so.
Minnesota law currently prevents the sale of raw milk, cream, skim milk, goat milk or sheep milk to the public on a regular or routine basis and bans any advertising. An occasional on-farm sale to customers who providing their own containers is permitted.
Companion bills introduced in January in the Minnesota House and Senate (HF255 and SF147) would have allowed direct farm-to-consumer sales and delivery of raw milk products including cream, butter, yogurt and cheese on a regular basis.
Under the companion bills, either the buyer or seller of raw milk could take charge of deliveries or raw milk could be sold at any farmers’ market, farm stand, or designated delivery site.
Those bills have languished since Jan. 27 in their assigned committees — Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance for HF255, and Agriculture and Rural Economies for SF147.
Minnesota’s legislative session continues for another month.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture puts its enforcement emphasis on raw milk deliveries, according to advocates for the dairies. Last year, when about 50 people were sickened in outbreaks involving raw milk in Minnesota, much of the focus was on the insanitary conditions at the Hartmann farm in Gibbon.
Owner Michael Hartmann challenged state officials in court, making claims that he had a right to sell unpasteurized milk under Minnesota’s Constitution. All were found to be groundless.