The latest Wisconsin lawmaker to promise to introduce a bill making raw milk legal in the dairy state is Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville). After all, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) rode into Congress on promises he made while a state senator to make raw milk legal. However, Grothman was never successful, especially after Wisconsin raw milk “outlaw” Vernon Hershberger came out against any bill that required licensing raw milk dairies. Not since 2010 has the Wisconsin Legislature approved a bill to loosen raw milk sales, and that measure came in for a veto from then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. But ever since, Republicans, who control the Wisconsin Assembly by 63-36 and the Senate by 19-14, have promised before every upcoming legislative session to open on-the-farm raw milk sales directly to consumers. Murphy, the most recent to take up the annual promise, says that being able to buy raw milk is a “freedom of choice” issue that plays to his “libertarian side.” But since 2010, anyone attempting to loosen raw milk regulation in Wisconsin has also run into the Safe Milk Coalition, powerful allies from the state’s nearly $30-billion pasteurized dairy industry who have joined with the state’s medical and public health groups, which favor the existing ban on raw milk sales. After Republican Scott Walker replaced Doyle as governor in January 2011, many predicted that the Wisconsin Legislature would pass another raw milk bill, but it has not yet happened. Walker has fairly consistently said he is willing to consider a raw milk bill as long as it doesn’t damage the state’s mainstream dairy economy. So far, though, all the talk has not gotten anything solid to the governor’s desk. Grothman’s most serious attempt two years ago was opposed by Hershberger shortly after the raw milk advocate was acquitted by a jury of some raw milk misdemeanors. Hershberger said at the time that he could not support any law that would require licensing of raw milk dairies. With raw milk advocates divided, Grothman failed to lift Wisconsin’s ban on raw milk sales. In addition to vetoing a 2010 raw milk bill, Doyle set up a task force that produced a report outlining safety measures that could be taken to lessen the chance of illnesses from raw milk. Since that report, however, nobody has introduced a bill containing those elements. The bill Murphy is promising to introduce would allow on-the-farm raw milk sales. A spokesman for Walker said that only a bill that protects public health and the integrity of the state’s dairy industry will get the governor’s support.
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