Oregon’s ban on advertising raw milk, which is no longer enforced, will likely be removed from the law books entirely after a 9-0 vote Thursday by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. The favorable committee vote moves House Bill 2446 as written to the floor without any amendments. It now appears likely that the state’s ban against raw milk advertising, which the Oregon Department of Agriculture tried to enforce in August 2012 against McMinnville farmer Christine Anderson, will become a historical footnote. Because of her advertising raw milk on her farm’s website, Anderson was subjected to an investigation that might have resulted in criminal penalties of one year in jail and a $6,250 fine and additional civil penalties of up to $10,000. Her legal troubles soon attracted help from the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which sued the state on constitutional grounds in November 2013, citing Anderson’s First Amendment rights. rawmilkforsalesign_406x250“Our argument was simple: the First Amendment prohibits government from banning truthful speech about a lawful product,” Anderson’s attorney, Michael E. Bindas, told the House committee during a Feb. 19 meeting in Salem. Anderson’s lawsuit against the state was not for monetary damages, but merely for an order declaring the advertising ban unconstitutional and ceasing its enforcement. Before the issue came to trial, the Oregon Department of Justice agreed that the state’s ban on raw milk advertising was “constitutionally problematic.” The state justice department then issued an order against any further enforcement and, in reaction, the Oregon Department of Agriculture requested its formal repeal. “Finally, it is important to emphasize what this bill is not,” said Bindas. “It is not an attempt to open a policy debate about raw milk. Nor is it an attempt to expand access to raw milk.” Ending enforcement of the advertising ban, according to Bindas, merely means that farmers such as Anderson will be able to advertise about a product being lawfully sold in Oregon. Oregon is one of 30 states that allow some raw milk sales, but it restricts the transactions to those occurring only on the producing farm and sets a limit of two cows, nine sheep, and nine goats on the premises where the milk is produced. Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office found no revenue impact to the state from doing away with the advertising ban. Lisa Hanson, deputy director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said that if the advertising ban is removed from the books, the rest of the statute regulating raw milk sales in the state would continue to apply. Ivan Maluski, policy director for the Salem-based Friends of Family Farmers, supported HB 2446 as written. Gillian G. Dumas, the Portland attorney representing Food Freedom Oregon, said that the bill “appears to be a tiny step forward for those seeking to sell raw milk,” adding, “The advertising ban was wrong and should be done away with.” However, Dumas also noted, “The next thing that should go is the ridiculously low number of cows and goats that farmers are allowed to have in order to sell raw milk.” “Consumers should have the freedom to purchase raw milk,” she told Oregon lawmakers. “If we want that choice to be a safe one for consumers, we should make the production of raw milk an economically viable option for dairy farmers. To do so, they need to achieve economies of scale that are hobbled by the current restrictive law.” Another state tweaking its raw milk law is South Dakota. Senate Bill 45, which passed the upper chamber 30-4 on Jan. 29 and cleared the House this week by a vote of 65-2, is now on the desk on Gov. Dennis Daugaard. He is likely to sign it since it was requested by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. South Dakota will continue to allow consumers to purchase raw milk on the farm, but SB 45 establishes a specific category and regulations for the unpasteurized product. State Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the bill was a compromise involving raw milk and larger-scale commercial dairies. Meanwhile, HB 245 in the Montana Legislature, which provides for herd-sharing agreements, remains on the House of Representatives’ second-reading calendar and could come up for a vote as early as today.