The House Agricultural Affairs Committee approved a proposal Thursday that would allow dairies to run expanded raw milk operations. Raw milk, which is unpasteurized, can contain harmful bacteria, but raw milk advocates say heating milk to high temperatures destroys vitamins and healthy enzymes.
The legislation approved by the House panel would make it clear that anyone owning a cow, goat, or sheep, or sharing ownership of those animals could legally drink or consume its raw milk. Selling raw milk would still be illegal, but dairies could keep seven cows or 15 goats or sheep in an animal sharing agreement. Farms or dairies with more than three cows or seven goats or sheep would need to submit their raw milk to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to test for bacteria and somatic cells, which can indicate infections in mammary glands.
The new legislation would replace rules approved by lawmakers earlier this year that capped farms to a three-cow limit. The higher limits are a result of negotiations between ISDA, the Idaho Dairymen Association, and other interested parties.
“It’s been a long, long raw journey,” said Bob Naerebout, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.
“I just hope it’s not a raw deal,” said Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, the chair of the committee. “Our concern about the protection of health of our citizens is paramount, and I think that this does indeed cover it very adequately.”
The legislation would require all farms with animals producing milk that would be consumed raw to register with ISDA. Anyone with a cow share, goat share, or sheep share to get raw milk would need to sign a written agreement with a dairy. Penalties for selling raw milk could run up to $200 or three months in jail. The legislation now heads to the House floor for a vote. Read the text of the legislation, HB675, here.