Vermont bill would allow raw milk classes

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont farm advocacy group that was ordered to stop offering raw milk workshops will get to resume the classes under a bill proposed in the state Legislature.

Rural Vermont had taught people how to turn raw milk into butter, yogurt and cheeses until it received an order to stop or face possible legal action from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture on Feb. 10.

The state said the group violated Vermont law "by holding classes in which raw milk is processed and served," Daniel L. Scruton, the agency's dairy chief, wrote in the order.

Supporters of raw milk say that pasteurization, which kills harmful bacteria and extends shelf life, depletes milk of beneficial nutrients. But the federal government doesn't allow sales of raw milk because of concerns about food-borne illness. States can allow raw milk sales as long as the milk doesn't cross state lines.

Since the classes stopped, Rural Vermont, which has held about 30 of them around the state in the last year, has heard from nearly 300 consumers and farmers and has been pressing the agency for a change, said executive director Jared Carter.

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a catchall agriculture bill — supported by the agency — that changes Vermont's 2008 law, from allowing the sale of raw milk for drinking to allowing consumers to turn raw milk into other products.

"It protects the right of farmers to sell their milk and it protects the rights of consumers to do what they want in their kitchen," Carter said.

"It would also mean that farmers would no longer need to be 'milk police' and would not be in violation of the law if they sell raw milk to a person that they know is going to go home make it into cheese etc. for their own personal consumption," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Classrooms would be required to have a sign outlining the risks of raw milk and the sponsors must keep a list of attendees for one year, so if there's any concern or illness, those people can be notified.

"If there's any illness there's trace-back," said Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary for dairy policy.

The bill, which was moved out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, is expected to return to the Senate floor on Friday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

 



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