Driving to Indianapolis for a public hearing about raw milk in the heat of the season is probably the last thing Hoosiers want to do this summer. Instead the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) is conducting a three month long “virtual public hearing” on the sale of raw milk. The virtual public hearing got under way June 1 and will not be over until the first of September. The Indiana General Assembly gave health board’s 11 members, including six veterinarians, the job of studying raw milk over the summer. BOAH has a December 1 deadline for submitting its report in order for it to be in time for the 2013 session of the General Assembly. “As we began planning our strategy for writing this report, we wanted to find a way for every Hoosier to participate,” said Terry Philibeck, BOAH’s dairy division manager. “Because attending public hearings can be a challenge to busy schedules and people geographically scattered across the state, we decided to host a ‘virtual’ public hearing to gather input.” Indiana’s current law prohibits the sale of raw milk for human consumption. Before it opted to make raw milk the subject of an interim study, the Indiana Senate passed a bill to allow on farm sales by licensed producers with no more than 20 cows. Public health officials have long opposed the commercial sale of raw milk in favor of pasteurized milk for its safety. However, raw milk has developed a cult-following in recent years that many small dairies would like to satisfy because retail prices of raw milk are much higher than those of pasteurized milk. The Indiana House then came up with the idea to call for the BOAH report, and the Senate went along. Indiana did adopt a definition of raw milk as ‘any milk or milk product, including butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese from any species other than humans that has not been pasteurized according to processes recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Indiana is the first state to conduct a comprehensive study of raw milk since a task force appointed by former Governor Jim Doyle produced a report in 2010. That report set criteria required to help ensure the safety of raw milk if it were sold to the public. According to BOAH, its task to decide whether raw milk sales currently prohibited by law should instead be permitted. Hoosier farm families do have the legal right to drink raw milk from their own animals. There’s a mosaic of state laws governing raw milk production and sales. In 30 states, non-pasteurized sales are allowed in some venues, from on-farm sales to full-blown retail distribution. Indiana is one of 20 states banning commercial sales of raw milk entirely. With more than half its body made up of veterinarians, BOAH is used to making tough decisions to keep Hoosier farm animals safe. For example, last month it imposed quarantine on a Lake County horse boarding facility to stop equine herpes virus-1 from spreading. To participate in Indiana’s virtual public hearing, go to the BOAH website at www.boah.in.gov and click on the “What’s New” link or the main banner. Comments for an against the sale of raw milk are welcomed, as are suggested changes to Indiana law dealing with raw milk. Anyone submitting comments must provide their name and contact information in case follow up is needed. Those without internet capabilities may submit written comments via U.S. Mail to: BOAH Attn: Raw milk comments, Discovery Hall, Suite 100, 1202 E 38th St., Indianapolis, IN 46205-2898.