Some Montana inhabitants have been making impassioned pleas to legalize raw milk this week. The debate took place during a hearing on House Bill 325, which was held by the Senate Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee on Tuesday, March 21.
The bill would create a category of "small dairies," i.e., farms with no more than five milk-producing cows or ten goats/sheep. The crux of the matter is that it would exempt these small farmers from the stipulation that milk must be pasteurized before being sold.
The risks associated with raw milk are well-documented: dangerous pathogens associated with it include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Campylobacter, and Salmonella, not to mention listeria, which is associated with early miscarriage. Pasteurizing milk (heating it to kill bacteria) led to significant drops in death and disease rates from milk-borne germs.
Currently, 30 states allow the sale of unpasteurized milk in some capacity, with only 13 of them allowing raw milk to be sold in stores. In the remaining 20 states, such as Montana, the selling of raw milk is illegal period.
There is currently no law against people drinking their own unpasteurized milk in Montana—they just can't sell it to others. Legislators have been weighing raw milk sales over the past two sessions, reports KPAX. The proposal was passed twice in the House before being defeated in the Senate.
Advocates supporting HB 325 were adamant that their families preferred drinking unpasteurized dairy and that their opponents were merely hyping up the risks. Rep. Nancy Ballance (R-Hamilton), who was supporting the proposal, said:
When we boil out all the natural good bacteria and enzymes, we remove the things that allow our bodies to absorb and use the vitamins and minerals in the milk. Then we take vitamin and mineral supplements to replace all the things that we boiled out. It just doesn't make sense.
But local farmers and state and health officials took serious issue with the matter, emphasizing the elevated risk of food-borne diseases associated with raw milk and cheese. The public health officer for the Flathead City-County Health Department, Joseph Russell, deemed raw milk to be an "inherently high-risk food."
We need to know where this milk is from, when it was produced and how to get it out of market.
The Committee has yet to take any action on the matter. Last month, the bill passed the house by 69–30, and if the Senate approves the bill, Gov. Steve Bullock will have the final say.
Do you think raws milk should be legalized in Montana?