Buoyed by the partial acquittal of Sauk County raw milk producer Vernon Hershberger, a Wisconsin state senator is going to try again to make it legal to sell unpasteurized milk and milk products in the Diary State.
West Bend Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman has dropped a bill into the Wisconsin Legislature that would allow limited sales of raw milk and raw milk products, which he claims are recommended by nutritionists and chiropractors for health benefits.
“Unfortunately, there is a law on the books where technically it’s still illegal to sell raw milk in the state of Wisconsin,” says Grothman. His bill would permit the sale of unpasteurized milk from farms registered with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The same farms would sell buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, ice cream, butter and cheese made with raw milk.
Grothman’s bill, which won’t go to a public hearing until Fall, would allow on the farm sales directly to consumers, but would continue to ban retail sales in stores or farmer’s markets.
A dairy farm that sells raw milk directly to consumers would risk losing their license. The Grothman bill sets up an exemption to that possibility by allowing those interested in selling raw milk to register with DATCP.
The Senator claims farms that register will be under the same requirements, as they would normally have for producing grade A milk regarding cleanliness, temperature, and other safety requirements.
The bill also sets up criteria for clean containers, proper labeling, a posted sign, and compliance with all state rules. As Wisconsin is the nation’s largest dairy state, Grothman will face strong opposition by the multi-billion dollar pasteurized milk industry, which claims raw milk’s frequent outbreaks gives their product a bad name.
A spokesman for the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition say it is impossible to make raw milk safe. The Wisconsin Legislature passed a raw milk bill in 2010, but former Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it. Attempts by Grothman and others since then to permit raw milk have since failed to go anywhere. A task force appointed by Doyle outlined what it would take to make raw milk both safe and legal in Wisconsin, but Grothman has ignored those stiffer requirements and other raw milk advocates.
Scott Walker, the current governor, has indicated he could sign a raw milk bill with sufficient safe guards in it. Unlike most state legislatures in the Midwest, the Wisconsin Legislature meets periodically throughout the year.