By Brad Bowman
Kentucky U.S. Representative Thomas Massie has introduced legislation aimed at protecting farmers and keeping the federal government out of your milk.
On Thursday, March 27, Massie joined a bipartisan effort of 19 other legislators for two bills: The Milk Freedom Act of 2014 and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014, which would allow consumers to buy raw, unpasteurized milk across interstate lines.
Consumers who buy raw, unpasteurized milk, buy it for the nutrients supportive legislators claim are not destroyed during the pasteurization process, a process the FDA can prosecute farmers for not doing. Massie said the decision should be between the farmers and families, not the federal government.
“As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers. Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” said Massie. “The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”
According to Massie, laws against interstate raw milk sales were never decided by Congress.
“The current prohibition of interstate raw milk sales was never passed by congress. Initially the FDA did not want to regulate raw milk, but they lost a court case in the 1980’s and subsequently took it upon themselves to outlaw interstate sales of raw milk,” Massie said. “This is a disturbing case of legislation by the judicial and executive branch.”
The new bills would open up markets for farmers to meet the demand of consumers in the region wanting locally sourced food products.
“Today, many people are paying more attention to the food they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed. There’s consumer demand for food of known origin,” Massie said. “Though no provision of either bill would preempt or otherwise interfere with any state law, the legislation would enable enterprising local farmers to produce and distribute fresh milk and milk products to discerning consumers without fear of persecution.”
With the ability to sell raw milk, local farmers, Massie said, could sell higher priced product.
“Farms selling raw milk will be held to a higher standard of cleanliness (by consumers and state regulations), so I doubt it will be cheaper to produce high quality raw milk, than bulk pasteurized milk,” Massie said. “However, raw milk, from the same cows, will sell for a higher price than pasteurized milk, so there is in fact more opportunity for profit for small farms.”
The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 would prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of unpasteurized, natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal. No provision of either bill would preempt or otherwise interfere with any state law.
In Kentucky, state residents can only buy raw goat milk by a doctor’s recommendation. Raw milk is sold at retail outlets in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Washington, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Arizona and New Mexico.