Last winter, Garden State Raw Milk — the campaign to legalize the sale of raw milk in New Jersey — was on a roll.   

Before the 2011 New Jersey Assembly began its session, state Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher had said raw milk might be part of the strategy to revive the NJ dairy industry, which has diminished to just 87 farms, down from 3,500 in the 1960s.

Then A743 — a bill to allow the sale of raw milk through a permit process overseen by the Ag Department — came to the floor with a unanimous recommendation from the Ag committee and sailed through the Assembly’s lower house on a vote of 71 to 6, with one abstention. 

On March 21, it was referred to the state senate’s Economic Growth Committee, and there it has remained.

NJ Assembly experts say A743 cannot be considered dead, because no action on the bill in the Senate on means it will be continued into 2012.  The distinction between New Jersey’s two annual legislative sessions is more ceremonial than actual, and only at the end of the second year does all unfinished business expire.

Under the bill, dairies that obtain permits from the state Department of Agriculture could produce, sell and ship raw milk, which would be subject to quality standards and testing.  If approved, the law would not take effect for 180 days to give the Department of Agriculture time to enforce it.

Garden State Raw Milk has advocated that New Jersey enact laws more in line with those in Pennsylvania, where many raw milk dairies currently supply raw milk to NJ residents.