Briefly during the decade when I was doing public affairs work on my own hook, I did some preliminary work for a group that wanted to build a NASCAR track.
It exposed me to NASCAR’s scoring system for weighing the merits of one driver against the others as the season progresses. If the bosses would just give me a couple weeks off with pay, I could develop such a scoring system for “raw milk wars.”
As changes are made to state laws and regulations involving raw milk, I really haven’t been able to tell who is ahead on a net basis. I am pretty sure we could come up with a point system to solve that problem, but without it there are just too many pieces to this subject to say without a system, who on a 50-state basis is winning this never ending war.
In the upcoming week, it takes another turn in Wisconsin—America’s Dairy State.
As promised, State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, has introduced Senate Bill 236 to allow commercial sales of raw milk into Wisconsin’s year-round Legislature and on this coming Wednesday, Sept. 11, the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions will hear the bill.
It appears to be pretty much the same bill Grothman introduced more than two years ago, before pulling it back and laying the weeds for a better time.
His latest effort comes after a Wisconsin jury found raw milk outlaw Vernon Hershberger not guilty of various bureaucratic infractions like doing business without licenses, and guilty solely of breaking a state hold on his product.
It’s an up time for food celebrities and raw milk adherents in Wisconsin. So, its best for Grothman to move now before the state sees its next outbreak from raw milk products.
The last time the Wisconsin Legislature voted to make commercial sales of raw milk legal was in 2010, but former Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill and his veto held up. His outgoing administration then named the Raw Milk Policy Working Group that came up with a 261-page report telling how raw milk might be produced and sold in as safe as possible manner.
Sen. Grothman continues to ignore that report. Indeed, there is no evidence that he has ever read it.
His bill requires dairy farmers who want to sell raw milk to register with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, use clean containers, label it as non-pasteurized. The dairy would have to post a sign saying, “Raw milk products sold here. Raw milk products are not pasteurized.”
After that, it gets a little complicated. A “Grade A” dairy selling milk to a licensed dairy plant could also divert some raw milk for direct sale to the public. If the dairy does not have a “Grade A” permit, it would still be required to meet those standards for appearance, odor, bacterial count, drug residues, somatic cell count, temperature, pesticides and water supply.
But the fiscal note prepared for the bill says the department is going to face a challenge of applying those “Grade A” requirements to a “Grade B” producer who opts to sell raw milk. The bill presents unknown costs not covered by fees, according to the analysis.
The bill, which runs just over three pages, also allows the sale of buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, whey, ice cream, butter and cheese made with raw milk.
Lining up against SB 236 are the Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and Wisconsin Grocers Association along with health advocacy organizations including Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Nurses Association, Wisconsin Public Health Association, and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association.
The Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Board also oppose it. The public hearing begins at 2 p.m., Sept. 11 in Room 411 South of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
Like NASCAR, I think there are enough twists and turns to state raw milk policy that we are going to have to come up with a scoring system for keeping track of it all. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Food Safety News