Every so often, somebody tries to make a partisan issue about raw milk. That happened again when Colorado was supposed to be “poised to defy this growing partisan divide” with a bill to allow direct sales to consumers.

The problem with SB24-043 is that the bill has gone precisely nowhere in the Colorado Legislature in the first two months of the current session. There are no hearings, no testimony, and no movement off the dime for the bill allowing the sale of raw milk directly to consumers from registered dairy farmers who follow certain new rules around labeling, storage, and transportation.

Iowa, a state dominated by Republicans, passed a similar bill last year. Colorado, where the Legislature is in the hands of Democrats, is a different kind of test for raw milk advocates.

SB24-043 is sponsored by Democrat Sen. Dylan Roberts, elected from the 8th District in 2022. Also on the bill are the Democratic House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Republican Sen. Byron Felton of the 1st District.

Prospects for SB24-043 seemed good when the session began because of Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado’s second-term Democrat.

Last summer, Sen. Roberts and others noticed Polis’s statements on the record about his support for liberalizing raw milk law.

Those comments did not surprise anyone who has followed Jared Polis’s career. During his five terms in Congress, Polis was an active member of the bipartisan “Food Freedom” caucus led by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY.

Since being elected to Congress in 2012, Massie has forced Congressional votes on “Food Freedom” measures involving raw milk and custom slaughter.

Polis was an enthusiastic recruit to those causes, even hosting Massie in Denver for a “forbidden food” tour.

Roberts introduced SB24-043 because dairy farmers in his district say raw milk sales would be an economic boost. He remains hopeful that his bill will emerge by the end of April when the Colorado Legislature adjourns.

Roberts says nothing in his bill will impact anyone who does not drink raw milk. When not serving in the State Capitol, Roberts is an attorney.

Under current law in Colorado,  the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is prohibited. SB24-043 would legalize the sale of raw cow or goat milk when it is sold directly to consumers at the point of production, the consumer’s residence, or at a farmer’s market or roadside market.

Raw milk sales require a producer to be registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and meet specific handling and labeling requirements. CDPHE, like other public health agencies, has long warned consumers about the dangers of raw milk. There is a federal law making it illegal to sell unpasteurized, raw milk across state lines.

Under the bill, The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) may establish handling, storage, labeling, and transportation requirements to sell raw milk by rule in consultation with CDPHE. 

CDA may also investigate raw milk producers and apply a civil penalty to or seek civil court action against a producer violating the program’s requirements.

The Colorado Legislature convened on Jan. 10 and will adjourn by May 8.

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