montanacapitol_406x250House Bill 325, which would have provided a small herd exemption for raw milk sales, is probably dead for the legislative session after failing Tuesday to get a majority vote on second reading in the Montana Senate.

Sponsored by State Rep. Nancy Balance, HB 325 passed the Montana House on Feb. 22 on a 69-to-30 vote. Balance is a Republican from Hamilton, MT,  first elected in 2012. She managed the bill with some flexibility by making changes to accommodate concerns picked up in both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees before failing to launch it in the Senate second reading vote.

As amended, HB 325 provided a small herd exemption and would have required the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) to adopt rules and administer the program. Individuals would have been exempt from production, use, and sales of raw milk and raw milk products.

MDOL estimated 30 small dairy herds might apply for exemption permits.  The bill would have required an annual herd Brucella test and four product tests every six months were also part of the program.

News about raw milk sales remaining illegal spread across Montana pretty quickly Tuesday, especially among the public health community. “I am so excited,” said one.

It also means Senate Bill 300 will likely remain on table, it was the insurance that now is not required. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Diane Sands, was pretty simple.

Anyone selling raw milk or raw milk products would be required to do so under a sign that “in large clear print” says: “Research has found raw milk and raw milk products from cows, goats, and sheep can transmit life-threatening bacterial infections. Physicians advise elderly and immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, infants and children to consume only pasteurized milk, cheese, and other products.”

Speaking at the recent public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Senate Bill 300, Sands said the public cannot have food freedom without having sufficient information to make an informed consent. The Missoula Democrat  said conditions are not the same as they were 100 years ago when pasteurized milk was first becoming available, but people still want to make decisions based on evidence.

SB 300 easily passed the Montana Senate on a 29-to-21 vote, and now remains “tabled” in the House Judiciary Committee.

The Montana Legislature is about two weeks away from adjournment.


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