Draft Plan Would Allow Farmers To Sell Raw Milk


Wisconsin farmers would be able to legally sell raw milk directly to the public under new legislation being drafted at the State Capitol.

Under the proposed bill, Grade A raw milk could only be sold directly from farmers to consumers. A sign at the farm and on the container’s label would have to state that the milk is unpasteurized. The measure is still in draft form and lawmakers hope to get more cosigners through mid-July.

The proposal follows the trial and partial acquittal of Sauk County farmer Vernon Hershberger, who came under scrutiny for selling raw milk to members of a buying club.

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State Rep. Chris Danou says people who want to buy and sell raw milk will continue to do so, and the bill creates reasonable standards. He says it could also help farmers make more money.

“If we can allow the agricultural producer to add value to his product by getting a retail price for it, as opposed to wholesale price, that, I think, will help some elements of the rural economy. It’s not obviously going to be a panacea; it’s just another option for folks.”

Among the proposal’s opponents is the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition. It consists of medical facilities, state dairy and cheese associations, and the insurance industry. Spokesman Shawn Pfaff says drinking raw milk carries some health risks and outbreaks could tarnish the dairy industry, even if people choose to drink it.

“You can’t always control who drinks this product. Kids could drink it. That’s really where we’re focusing our argument on is making sure we have safe milk for kids to drink.”

Governor Walker’s spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement that in order to allow direct raw milk sales, public health safeguards and industry protections would need to be in place.