MADISON, Wis. — Citing the interest of public health and the safety of his state’s dairy industry, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a senate bill on May 19, that would have allowed for direct farmer-to-consumer sales of raw milk.
“I recognize that there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter, but on balance, I must side with the interests of public health and the safety of the dairy industry,” Doyle said in a released statement. “I am listening to the unanimous voice of public health professionals, including leading doctors at the Marshfield Clinic and Gundersen Lutheran Health System who have found the sale of raw milk to have potentially harmful health effects.”
The legislation — known as Senate Bill 434 — would have authorized a dairy farmer with a grade A dairy farm permit to sell unpasteurized milk, buttermilk, butter, and cream directly to consumers on the farm, provided the farmer obtained a raw milk permit from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
The bill required farmers to prepare and fill containers in a sanitary manner, and display a sign indicating that raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization. The bill also excluded dairymen for liability in selling raw milk products, provided they did not omit any of the required information.
The governor’s veto was well received by National Milk Producers Federation, which called the decision “a commitment to health and safety.”
In a released statement, Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF, commended the governor for protecting public health.
“Many other state dairy organizations in Wisconsin, along with the health professional community, made a major effort in the past week to provide some badly-needed perspective on the potentially deadly consequences if the state were to have passed this bill,” he said.
Federal law prohibits interstate sales of raw milk, but allows states individual discretion for regulating raw milk within their borders. Raw milk — milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, is reported to be prohibited in 23 states.
The debate over raw milk has become a national issue, with states adopting many different policies. Currently, Pennsylvania leads the nation in dairies licensed to sell raw milk. Sales are illegal in Ohio.
Proponents of raw milk claim that pasteurization — the process of heating milk to destroy bacteria and extend shelf life — destroys important nutrients and enzymes.
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