A proposed bill in Montana that would bring raw milk to the state is leaving a sour taste with many dairy farmers.  

“We have a dairy industry in the state of Montana, and it’s something that we all bust our butts to make a living at,” dairy farmer Jeff Lewis told the Missoulian. “The biggest issue I see with the bill is it would completely undermine the dairy industry. It doesn’t put us on an even playing field.”

Lewis, owner of the MuJuice Dairy near Corvallis, Mont., and many others in the state’s dairy industry have voiced their opinion against the bill, HB 574. If passed, HB 574 would create a small herd exemption from current mandatory pasteurization requirements. Read the bill.

“Are these farmers who want to sell raw milk going to pay 50 bucks a month to send in a sample quarterly, and what if the sample is no good?” Lewis asked. “How are you going to enforce all these small farmers? If my inspectors are going out to inspect, and the farmer is not paying for the inspection, then I’ve really got heartburn.”

Lewis, a member of the Montana Department of Livestock board, also points to the health concerns associated with consuming raw milk and raw dairy products.

“This whole raw milk thing, there is people getting sick all the time,” he said. “There was a bunch of people that got sick in Alaska recently. The people that advocate this forget to tell people about that.”

In the Alaska outbreak, 24 people in the Kenai Peninsula have fallen ill with campylobacter infections after drinking raw milk from a local dairy.  Two of the cases have required hospitalization. Read, “Alaska’s raw milk problems won’t go away.”  

Read more from the Missoulian here.

Others in the state echo Lewis’ concerns.

“We are concerned about the Pandora’s Box that would be opened if a consumer has a bad experience from consuming raw milk,” Mark Meyer of the Montana Milk Producers Association told the Billings (Mont.) Gazette. “It would negatively impact the milk industry as a whole here in Montana.”

According to the Billings Gazette, Christian Mackay, executive officer for the state’s Board of Livestock, is leading the opposition to the bill.

“I’m proud that Montana milk producers (currently) produce a product that’s not going to get children sick,” Mackay said. “You’re inviting problems by allowing this.”

The bill, currently in the House Agriculture Committee, still has a long way to go before it becomes a law, if it is passed. Republican Representative Lee Randall, chairman of the Committee, expects several amendments to be proposed.

See, “Hearing on unpasteurized milk draws crowd.”