Four states that currently outlaw the retail sales of raw milk and allow only limited access to unpasteurized dairy products are finding it hard to make any progress this legislative season.

Of the four states, only Illinois currently allows for herd share agreements, which means a person has to buy a share in a herd or a single animal to receive the raw milk. On-farm sales are allowed in Illinois and Minnesota and for milk prescriptions in Rhode Island.

Other than that, the four states are among those with controls on raw milk sales and distribution. Bills questioning that approach are currently before each state’s legislature.

But when your bill is re-referred to the assignments committee or after an extensive public hearing it gets deferred, it’s usually not a good sign. And for the handful of raw milk bills state legislatures are still considering this year, that’s how it’s going.

Bills to legalize raw milk are pending in Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. And it’s not really going well for any of the four. Here’s the status report:

After a third set of hearings Monday, the Hawaii Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and the Environment and the Committee on Health and Human Services, the best HB 521 got was a pair of deferral votes by the two committees. While some citizen testimony asked why it is okay for Hawaiians to consume risky raw shellfish, but not raw milk, the state Health Department remains completely opposed to raw milk legalization.

Without a floor vote, HB 521 could be dead shortly. Adjournment Sine Die for the Hawaii Legislature is May 4, but bill-killing deadlines come before that.

SB 0152 authorizes a dairy farm to sell, distribute or otherwise sell or distribute unpasteurized milk or milk products for human use or consumption without being issued a permit if the animal is housed at the farm.

After it was introduced on Jan. 25, 2023, the Illinois raw milk bill was assigned to the Senate’s Public Health Committee. It took the assignment until March 10, 2023, when SB 0152 was sent back to the Assignments Committee, where it remains.

The Illinois Legislature adjourns on May 19 and runs up to that date with the usual bill-killing deadlines.

Rhode Island
The Rhode Island House Health & Human Services Committee has recommended the bill to legalize raw milk “be held for further study.”

That action was taken by a committee vote on March 10, 2023. In all likelihood it spells the death neal for HB 5557 during the current legislative session which does not end until June 30.

HB 5557 would, if it is ever enacted, give raw milk the same status as pasteurized milk.

The Minnesota House Agriculture, Finance & Policy Committee on Feb. 1, 2023, got the assignment to review HF 1167, but it’s not held any hearings or moved the bill in any way. As drafted it would permit registered small dairy farms to sell fluid raw milk and fluid raw milk products to consumers under certain circumstances.

The Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 22, and it too has the usual set of deadlines that bills must make or be dead before the adjournment date.

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