Maine: Raw Milk Bill Dies
Policy Watch: Raw milk bill dies
But expect its resurrection soon.
The latest attempt at legislating unregulated raw milk and milk product sales died in the Maine Senate in April, but the issue itself lives on and will for the forseeable future.
This is one of those Hungry Goldilocks dilemmas – the bill, as put forward by Rep. William Noon, D-Sanford, and amended (and again and again in committee), was too liberal for some, too conservative for others, and ultimately not quite right for the majority. And this week, on Tuesday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments on the case of Dan Brown, a Blue Hill farmer and food sovereignty supporter who was shut down by the state and still disputes whether his raw milk should have been subject to any regulation.
The issue is not about whether the Maine consumer with a craving for the high-fat, unpasteurized product can obtain raw milk or cheese made from it. That is, relatively speaking, easy. Ten states allow the retail sale of raw milk, Maine among them. (It’s flat-out illegal in 10 states; the others have various, more restrictive permutations allowing sales or turning a legislative blind eye.) I can get raw milk at my favorite farm or my farmers market, where a gallon costs about $8. It might feel like contraband, but it’s not.
But here is the catch, a provision that is good or bad depending on your viewpoint about the safety of raw milk. The raw milk I buy comes from producers who have paid to be licensed and who can, at any time, be visited by a state inspector. It’s a cheap license, but some dairy farmers object to it; they say implementing its provisions is prohibitive.
Noon’s bill attempted to set guidelines for exemptions to the current licensing arrangement. He himself is a licensed producer of raw milk, so he is sympathetic to producers’ needs. He thought he’d tailored the bill for swift passage, working with the Department of Agriculture and writing it with Gov. Paul LePage in mind. Last year LePage vetoed a similar bill that would have allowed unlicensed sales at farms and farmers’ markets, saying he wasn’t comfortable with the farmers’ market piece of it.
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