After 30 years or more, Illinois is about to get procedures for permitting and inspecting dairy farms that will make the sale and distribution of raw milk legal in the Land of Lincoln. Raw milk dairies that have operated in the shadows during those years probably don’t see it that way but may fear that the new regulations will push their businesses further underground. The state is now going through the first of two back-to-back 45-day comment periods on the new rules. The first 45 days, now underway, is for comments to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), while comments during the second period go the powerful Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking, which can enact the changes without any need for further legislative action. IDPH opted to take a regulatory approach to the sale and distribution of raw milk after a bill to ban it failed last year. The ill-fated bill instead had the effect of politicizing Illinois raw milk producers and their customers. The regulatory measures Illinois now wants to impose are authorized by existing law, including the Grade A Pasteurized Milk Act, the Milk Products Act, and the Illinois Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. “Per the Act, the practice of selling raw milk from the premises of the dairy farm must be done in accordance with rules,” according to the proposal. “In the absence of rules and with Illinois’ adoption of the Federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, raw milk sales are currently prohibited.” Tell that, however, to Illinois thriving raw milk dairies, which can fetch $7 to $18 a gallon for raw milk, with the highest prices going to the unpasteurized products that are delivered to the Chicago area. They’ve been building up their raw milk sales to the cities and suburbs for years. If enacted, Illinois would operate under a two-tiered permitting system for sales and distribution of raw milk from the premises of a dairy farm to consumers as long as certain requirements are met. A Tier I permit would allow only on-the-farm sales and distribution of raw milk for use or consumption by consumers. A Tier II permit would be for raw milk sales and distribution under a herd-share agreement. Raw milk sales without either a Tier I or Tier II permit would be illegal. Permit holders for both tiers must post signs warning consumers that raw milk is not pasteurized and may contain harmful pathogens. There are similar requirements for labeling raw milk. In addition to specific requirements for the herd and milking equipment, the new rules sets specific standards for milk sampling and testing, including a limit of 10 coliforms per milliliter of raw milk. The bacteria count must be less than 20,000 bacteria per milliliter of raw milk, and a somatic cell count that shall be less than, or equal to, 400,000 cells per milliliter of raw milk. IDPH is empowered to demand pathogen testing if there is an outbreak or a high risk of infection exists. Raw milk dairies would be required to keep logs of all sales and transactions and have a plan for both recalling products and notifying customers. It also must account for the total number of gallons sold during the previous 12-month period.