• WisBusiness

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let individuals decide on consuming raw milk


By Chris Danou
When it comes to your own personal consumption, who decides? Is it you or the government? Individuals should make their own personal consumption choices, not government entities.

Recently, i have spent lots of time discussing the issue of raw milk sales with other legislators, my staff, lobbyists around the Capitol, and most importantly my constituents. I have had the privilege to replace Rep. Barbara Gronemus, the independent Democrat who held this seat for 26 years and had a history of supporting the right to sell raw milk.

For me and for my constituents in the 91st Assembly District, the issue boils down to the question of when regulation goes too far.

The farm community in Wisconsin is hurting. Milk prices are unusually low and the economy is slow to recover from one of the worst economic downturns we have seen since the Great Depression.

If farmers in my district are able, through their own ingenuity, to produce a product which the free market dictates a demand for, who am I as a legislator to tell them no? After all, it is my job to represent their best interests. By supporting the sale of raw milk that is exactly what i am attempting to do.

After all, the government allows for the sale of raw eggs, beef, and poultry. This is not to mention that we allow for the sale of such frowned upon products as liquor, cigarettes, and tobacco. Why should the sale of raw milk be treated differently?

My bill in support of raw milk sales does several things. First, it requires a Grade-A permit which provides current state guidelines to oversee the sanitary handling and storage of raw milk.

This bill will also provide for a raw milk permit which can be used to keep the government regulations designed for large national corporate food processors and handlers from being applied to and becoming excessively burdensome to the local farmers who operate on a much smaller scale and stay local.

Consumers will be able to buy local, developing a trusting relationship with the farmer, which will ultimately strengthen the "safety factor."

Finally, my bill will also provide some level of protection for the farmer from individuals who may be opportunists and try to take advantage of the current misconceptions regarding the safety of raw milk.

Raw, or unpasteurized, milk has been a staple of Wisconsin and American diets for many generations and it has been consumed for many years without negative health effects by the vast majority of these families. Twenty-five states currently allow for the sale of raw milk, including our neighbors in Minnesota.

Wisconsin, the Dairy State, currently has no exception for the sale of raw milk directly from farms to willing, informed consumers.

This bill simply allows those who want the choice to drink raw milk to have the right to purchase this product directly from Wisconsin family farms. Many consumers are asking for access to raw milk and milk products for health reasons and strongly believe they should have the freedom to legally purchase the healthy food of their choice. Sen. Kretlow and I have drafted a bill which will do just that.

-- Danou, a Democrat, serves in an Assembly district that includes Trempealeau and Buffalo counties and portions of Jackson, Pepin, and Pierce counties. Prior to serving in the state Assembly, Danou was a police officer with the Onalaska Police Department. He received his bachelor's degree from UW-Madison and master's degrees from UW-Stevens Point & American University.

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