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USA: Legislatures are acting mostly with caution when it comes to raw milk

The conference committee’s amendments on prohibitions and exemptions were accepted before the North Dakota Legislature OK’d farmers selling raw milk directly to consumers.

Those provisions provide that

–A farm may sell raw milk directly to the end consumer for personal consumption.

–A farm may not sell raw milk to a wholesaler or retail store for mass consumption under this chapter.

–The seller shall only sell milk within this state.

–The sale may not involve interstate commerce.

–Raw milk may not be donated.

With those provisions, the North Dakota Legislature sent the direct sale bill to Gov. Doug Burgum’s desk by overwhelming margins, 83 -to 10 in the House and 32-to-14 in the Senate. House Bill 1515 permits dairy producers in North Dakota to sell raw milk on their farms, while continuing the state’s prohibition on sales through grocery stores or wholesalers. Raw milk sales are limited to direct transactions between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

North Dakota’s health and agriculture officials remain concerned about the pathogens contained in milk that are not pasteurized that often cause human illnesses. Those concerns may be why Gov. Burgum’s position on HB 1515 remains unknown.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also has a raw bill on her desk. Iowa Senate File 315 is like the North Dakota bill but appears to go a little further. Milk producers would be able to sell raw, unpasteurized milk in Iowa if Gov. Reynolds signs SF315. Healthcare and agricultural groups, including the Iowa Public Health Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, and Iowa State Dairy Association, are on record as being opposed to the bill because of public health concerns.

The Iowa House made revisions to the bill after it first passed the Senate, but the margins have been large on final passage in both chambers, 64-to-35 in the House and 37-to-13 in the Senate. The approved version requires that raw milk producers test dairy animals for bacteria. It does not require that the raw milk itself be tested for bacteria or viruses, which can allow contaminated milk to enter the stream of commerce. In four other states, the current legislative sessions appear to be coming to an end with no changes for raw milk.

The Hawaii Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and the Environment and the Committee on Health and Human Services deferred HB 521 and nothing has happened since then. Some citizen testimony had earlier asked why it is okay for Hawaiians to consume risky raw shellfish, but not raw milk, but the state Health Department remains completely opposed to raw milk legalization. Adjournment Sine Die for the Hawaii Legislature is May 4.

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 and 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 and 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.