A second hearing on a senate bill that will allow limited sales of raw milk by farmers in Wisconsin directly to consumers will took place in La Crosse yesterday. Senate Bill 236 was authored by Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-Milwaukee) says the bill would would let dairy farmers register with the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, in order to sell unpasteurized milk to consumers, but retail sales in grocery stores would still be banned.
A number of area legislators support the bill. Republican Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center says he feels consumers and farmers should have the right to work directly without government interference. Rep. Chris Danou (D- Trempealeau) is a co-author of the Assembly’s version of the measure.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D- La Crosse) has previously voted against the legalization of the sale of raw milk in April 2010 when a similar measure passed the Assembly and Senate but was vetoed by the Governor Jim Doyle. State Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) voted for that that measure.
Bill supporters say raw milk is better for your health because all the enzymes are not processed out. Coon Valley dairy farmer Vince Hundt is an advocate for raw milk sales and testified in Madison last week about the issue and also appeared on the television program Capital City Sunday. Hundt says raw milk is no more unsafe then lots of other foods and says last year the Center for Disease Control reported over 1.3 million Americans got sick from pasteurized products. Hundt went on to point out that the move toward raw milk is part of a national movement toward less processed food and millions of people eat unprocessed foods from farmers markets across the country.
Shawn Pfaff, representing the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association and Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition, also appeared on Capital City Sunday and said the dairy industry could take a major hit if people stop consuming dairy altogether after experiencing adverse side effects from drinking raw milk. Pfaff added pasteurization of milk occurs for a reason and keeps the integrity of the industry intact. Pfaff said Wisconsin leads the country in cheese production and it would be foolish to jeopardize the reputation of one Wisconsin’s largest industries.
Hundt countered that countries like New Zealand that is even more economically dependent on dairy than Wisconsin sells raw milk and their dairy industry has not been negatively impacted.