The heartland states of Iowa and Indiana are entertaining changes to their raw milk laws, but with far differing approaches.
In Iowa, which is bordered by Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota, lawmakers are considering allowing on-farm sales to make the state’s approach more consistent with its neighbors.
The Indiana Assembly meanwhile is on the verge of adopting House Bill 1129, a measure that now includes language to make it clear that raw milk cannot be sold for human consumption.
Indiana plans to have one of its interim study committees take up the raw milk issue in more detail next summer.
Hoosier lawmakers recently heard testimony that raw milk is showing up at Indiana’s many farmers’ markets, even though the sale of unpasteurized milk is illegal.
Gary Haynes, legal affairs director for the Indiana Board of Animal Health, says more consumers are interested in buying raw milk, and more farms want to sell it.
It seems Indiana is officially perplexed about raw milk. The Senate earlier voted to make commercial sales of raw milk legal, but the sponsor pulled the bill at the request of the Indiana Farm Bureau.
Major food groups, the pasteurized dairy industry, and major farm organizations have been among those who have popped up to oppose bills to make commercial raw milk sales legal. Bob Kraft, government affairs director for the Indiana Farmers Union, says his group is concerned about producers’ liability.
HB 1129 now includes an amendment requiring all raw milk sold in Indiana to carry a label saying it is not for human consumption. Until the interim committee comes up with recommendations, Indiana lawmakers will probably go no further.
In Iowa, the bill allowing on-farm sales moved over its first hurdle when it got a green light from a three-member panel. The measure now rests with the Iowa Judiciary Committee.
This measure, too, has picked up the opposition of a perennial legislative power in the form of the Iowa Dairy Foods Association. Its lobbyist, Mark Truesdell, called allowing raw milk sales an action that goes “180 degrees in the wrong direction.”
Francis Thicke, the Fairfield dairy farmer who ran unsuccessfully for Iowa Agriculture Secretary in 2010, has emerged as a raw milk advocate. He is telling lawmakers that a European studies indicate raw milk makes it less likely that children will suffer from asthma or hay fever.
Those large population-based studies of rural farm factors did find a correlation between drinking farm milk and reduced childhood wheezing, but the researchers acknowledge they couldn’t prove causation — it is unclear if drinking raw milk or exposure to farm animals is what lessens the likelihood of allergic reactions. The European researchers also say raw milk should not be considered a treatment for asthma, given the risk of pathogens and serious infections.