Willis, others oppose raw milk sales restrictions
Register Citizen, CT)
By RONALD DEROSA
A local representative has joined a team of legislators
that opposes legislation which would ban the sale of raw milk in retail
stores throughout the state.
Rep. Roberta Willis, D-64, Rep. Diana Urban, D-43, and Sen. Andrew Maynard,
D-18, announced their opposition Monday to legislation sponsored by the state
Department of Agriculture that would prohibit raw milk sales in stores and
require extensive milk testing at the licensed producers’ expense.
At a press conference held by the legislators at 11 a.m. Willis announced her
opposition to the legislation in front of a large turnout of raw milk farmers
and consumers. The bill has garnered an overwhelming amount of interest from
farmers across the state and in Litchfield
County, said Bob
Douglas, spokesman for the House Democrats.
Raw milk is milk that is not pasteurized, a process that involves boiling the
product to destroy pathogens.
During the conference, Willis contended that such legislation prohibiting the
sale of raw milk, and requiring testing, could push such producers out of
business. She argued that it “makes no sense” to punish the privately-owned
producers who have “never been the cause of any outbreak of illness.”
“This would cripple an important segment of our economy and adversely affect
both producers and consumers,” Willis said. “We should be working with these
producers to expand this market.”
Throughout the day Thursday, several farmers and consumers of raw milk
presented testimony to the House Environment Committee, of which Willis is a
member. The measure is scheduled to be voted on by that committee before
eventually heading to the House floor for the next vote, Willis said.
“Listening to the chair(men), it sounded like they
were looking to discuss a middle ground,” she said.
Chris Hopkins, a raw milk farmer and owner of Stone Wall Dairy Farm in Cornwall, said that,
while he did not attend the hearing, he is not in favor of the legislation as
it is written. The costs of extra testing would increase the expense to
$11,880 a year and the testing is not an accurate test, Hopkins said. Several raw milk farmers,
with this pending legislation, are thinking about forming a raw milk
association, he said.
“We, as an association, are in favor of safe milk and trying to work towards
having the Department of Agriculture feel comfortable with it,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture has long been concerned about the consumption
of raw milk and its health implications, said Wayne Kasacek,
assistant director of the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection. The food is,
in effect, raw, and just as the department does not encourage eating a raw
hamburger, they do not encourage drinking raw milk, Kasacek
The push for legislation also stemmed from an incident in July 2008, where 14
people became ill from consuming the product from one farm, he said.
“This is a public health issue,” Kasacek said. “And
the Department of Agriculture is charged with protecting public health and
When asked what effect it would have on local farms, Kasacek
said retail raw milk is a “fraction” of milk sold in the state. He cited a
statistic that, each year, 70 million gallons of pasteurized milk is consumed
in the state and 170,000 gallons of unpasteurized raw milk is consumed.
“We are hoping that this legislation will limit sales of
raw milk to on-sale farms only and farmers markets,” Kasacek
said. “Where these very motivated, highly informed consumers will be able to
continue to buy their product directly from the farm.”
The proponents of raw milk, however, want unrestricted sales of their
product, he said.
“Raw milk is a dangerous product,” he said. “From our perspective,
scientifically you cannot ignore the risks or raw milk.”
The American Medical Association, the American Pediatric Association and the
National Association of Public Health Veterinarians all oppose it, he said.
In citing the issue of 14 individuals becoming ill from the raw milk, Willis
said the ban of the product was “overkill.”
“There’s all kinds of food issues,” she said. “Look
at what’s going on with peanut butter.”
Other past situations have also arose, Willis said, such as with
unpasteurized cider and someone becoming sick from it. 2-10-09