Wisconsin panel tough on raw milk

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America's Dairyland could dramatically raise the bar on raw milk regulation if its Legislature and governor ever allow it to be sold in Wisconsin.
A year after Wisconsin's Raw Milk Policy Work Group began deliberating, the panel is close to a report that will not endorse raw milk sales, but will say that if raw milk is made legal in Wisconsin, the state should impose restrictive requirements that go beyond any now found in America.
Former Gov. Jim Doyle's Secretary of Agriculture, Rod Nilsestuen, appointed the Raw Milk Policy Group, which went to work in March 2010.
The group's purpose is to consider whether there are legal, regulatory means that might allow dairy farmers to sell unpasteurized fluid raw milk directly to consumers and, if so, what conditions would be necessary to protect public health.
The 22-member group represents a wide array of stakeholders and experts. Wisconsin's $26.2 billion dairy industry accounts for almost half of the state's $59.2 million agricultural industry, which provides 420,000 jobs for 12 percent of the state's workforce.
"Because of the economic contribution of the dairy industry, a very important role for Wisconsin state government is assuring that the milk we drink is safe," says David Ward, government relations' director for Minnesota and Wisconsin co-ops.
The Working Group's report, which has been expected since the end of January, will not call for the legal sale of raw milk in Wisconsin, Food Safety News has learned. Instead it will lay out a long list of requirements that should be imposed if the Legislature ever opts to make raw milk legal.
For example, it would call for animal health testing for tuberculosis, brucellosis, streptococcus agalactia, and leptospirosis, milk testing for standard plate count, somatic cell count, coliform, antibiotic drug residues, and pathogens including Campylobacter jujuni, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia-coli O157:H7; and non-O157:H7 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.
The Working Group will say there should be well-water testing for coliform, and milk temperature requirements for holding and storing unpasteurized milk. It wants specified timeframes for selling and consuming unpasteurized milk and specific containers.
It will call for on-farm standards, licensing, and inspection for selling unpasteurized milk, along
with legal parameters, public education, and on-farm response and management.
When released, the working group report is expected to run about 55 pages, with 35 separate parameters that would have to be met before raw milk could be sold to the public. Expected to be among its recommendations:
  • Only on-farm sales directly to consumers would be allowed.
  • Laws and regulations would cover producers and farms permitted to sell unpasteurized raw milk.
  • Regulations would cover how containers are filled and refrigerated; how milk is tested, and for what pathogens; and licensing procedures.
  • On-farm sales of raw milk would not include any special exemption from liability for personal injuries to consumers from the product.
  • Dairy farms selling raw milk would have to meet all requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance's (PMO's) Grade A requirements, except for the one mandating that they market their milk through a dairy-processing plant.
  • Raw milk producers milking by hand or storing milk in cans would not be permitted to sell to the public.
  • On-farm sale of raw goat milk and raw sheep milk would be prohibited.
  • Advertising would be permitted, but only for on-farm purchase and delivery.
  • The state would publish best-management practices for selling unpasteurized milk and a consumer's guide for sale handling.
  • Upon enactment of a raw milk law, the governor should name a seven-member committee to monitor the effectiveness of the law, including food-safety and public health issues related to the sale and consumption of unpasteurized milk. 
  • Within four years after any raw milk law takes effect, the committee shall make recommendations to the governor and the DATCP on any needed changes.
Then-Gov. Doyle last year vetoed a law that would have make raw milk sales legal in Wisconsin.  It would have been the 26th state to do so.
Since then, even lawmakers favoring raw milk legalization have been willing to wait on the Working Group's report.  Wisconsin's current legislative session, however, continues well into 2010, giving raw milk advocates plenty of time to respond.
Wisconsin's Legislature and state government in general have been preoccupied during the last few weeks by protests over the dispute between the new Republican Gov. Scott Walker and public employee unions.
Source: Dan Flynn, Food Safety News

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sewi  |  March, 10, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Doyle is not gov. There's a new guy and your story is old.

WI  |  March, 11, 2011 at 06:56 AM

If you're from SE WI, you should know that Doyle named the committee, then retired. Walker is now guv. I'm thinking that he should free-market raw milk, but require liability insurance. Then the insurance companies would inspect and enforce BMP to a greater degree than the state inspectors that could "stand-down" when political winds change.

WI  |  March, 11, 2011 at 06:56 AM

If you're from SE WI, you should know that Doyle named the committee, then retired. Walker is now guv. I'm thinking that he should free-market raw milk, but require liability insurance. Then the insurance companies would inspect and enforce BMP to a greater degree than the state inspectors that could "stand-down" when political winds change.

Vernon county  |  March, 10, 2011 at 10:38 AM

I am pleased with the working group`s work,it will allow raw milk sales and still ptotect the image of our farms. It will also mean that Wis will not become another state to have sick people from raw milk. Many dairies will not even feed raw milk to newborn calves anymore. As a farmer I surely would not risk my farm by selling raw milk. I hope those that do make it profitable.

kevin musser    
OHio  |  March, 14, 2011 at 01:33 PM

I find it strange that the dairy farmers on this board most likely just draw some milk from the tank each day to take home for their family-Hmm! is there something to be said about this. The people who sell a "raw" product are people who are able to care more about their individual herd and production because it is almost exclusively small farms. Isn't it interesting that the Dairy industry of Wisconson is not interested in expanding business opportunities for other dairys in the state, only protecting their own. By doing the same this they run to the government for help protecting their sales ,who has milk so over regulated now it is ridiculous. How many cases of real sickness have ever occurred in raw milk sales-ever? Has it ever been considered that the product these people are producing is an even better product and the large dairy interest are afraid of some competition? I, and countless millions have consumed fresh milk (raw) almost all of our life and I am healthier than 8 of 10 people I come in contact with. Let's stop the fear mongering and protectionism and let a good product enter the market place. If people become healthier and enjoy a beautiful product why must we try to regulate that away from them? Maybe the dairy industries image would even improve and sales would increase.

wi  |  March, 14, 2011 at 05:06 PM

seems to me i have been drinking raw milk my whole life, and have yet to be sick from it. could it be that it has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with the almighty dollar and who's pocket gets it?

Chuck Bolder    
Merrill  |  March, 15, 2011 at 09:12 AM

Why all the regulations? Why do we need to test for TB and Brucellosis This state has been free of those Diseases for many years now.I would like to see the list of who all is on the wroking committee as well. If your buying from smaller producers they will make sure your milk is clean as can be. It will also be healthier for you.

joanne pasek    
hubertus,wiscinsin  |  March, 15, 2011 at 10:58 PM

I drank raw milk for many years. I was advised to try it to solve a grave health problem with the MDs could not solve! The third week after drinking raw milk(28oz. a day ) the problem . In the last 20 years has the been more problems with milk as with spinach HAVE THERE BEEN AS MANY RECALLS ON RAW MILK AS THE RECALLS THE SOME OF THE OTHER EATABLE PRODUCTS RECALLED? PLEASE ADVISE!

wi  |  March, 16, 2011 at 09:06 PM

To respond to Jims comment on farmers not drinking their own raw milk or feeding it to their calves, I would not drink their milk even if it were pastuized. Obviously something is wrong. Dont you think that would send up a red flag to the consumer also.

Mr G    
milwaukee  |  September, 30, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Wisconsin is still a state of small dairy farms which could switch back to direct farm sales practically overnight. These large special interests are petrified this could catch on.

Mr G    
milwaukee  |  September, 30, 2012 at 11:54 AM

The image of dairy in America couldn't be any worse. Raw milk would reverse that overnight.

Mr G    
milwaukee  |  September, 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Right on Linda.

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