Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Raw-milk advocates in Ky. switch efforts to bill that would allow shared ownership of dairy cows

Even as The Associated Press reports "an outbreak of bacterial infections on the East Coast illustrates the popularity of raw, unpasteurized milk despite strong warnings from public health officials about the potential danger," the fight for raw milk continues in several states. In Kentucky some advocates who couldn't get a raw-milk sales bill passed have substituted the idea of "cow sharing," reports Janet Patton of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Generally, state laws allow people to drink raw milk from their own cows, and "cow sharing" allows people to buy into a herd, supporting care of cows, and share in the resulting dairy products. John-Mark Hack of Marskbury Farm Market in Lancaster said there is a lot of interest in this program because people want access to fresh dairy products. Kentucky Department of Public Health regulations prohibit raw milk sales.

Republican state Sen. John Schickel, sponsor of the bill to facilitate cow-sharing in Kentucky, said it is about "food-liberty issues," and follows the national trend to "get closer to the source" of food. But opponents say his bill could be dangerous because it's a step closer to legalizing raw milk sales. "If you have several people in cow shares, you have to ask, is this a loophole? Is this an effort to have no regulatory oversight in the process to consumers?" said Kentucky Dairy Development Council executive director Maury Cox. Advocate Sally O'Boyle said raw milk is no more dangerous than cantaloupe or spinach, which have been connected to recent outbreaks of food-borne illness. The bill, which would allow local governments to override it, is out of committee and on the Senate floor. (Read more)

UPDATE: The Ky. Senate passed the bill on Feb. 10 with a vote of 22-15. Most "yes" votes came from Republicans. The bill now moves to the Democratically controlled state House. The state's Community Farm Alliance published a break-down of how senators voted.

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