A little over a week ago, Senator John Schickel (R-Union) pre-filed BR 294, a bill that would allow “permitted producers” to engage in on-farm sales of raw milk. The “permitted producer” must be “in compliance with all applicable administrative regulations” as determined by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). Further, the milk must be labeled and may not be “sold… at any location other than the farm on which the milk is produced.”
There have been several concerns raised regarding the bill as it is currently written. HB 294 gives CHFS broad authority to promulgate administrative regulations pertaining to the on-farm sale of raw milk. While this power is in and of itself not extraordinary, many small scale dairy farmers and consumers are wary of the Milk Safety Branch’s antipathy towards the concept of raw milk being marketed under any circumstances for human consumption and its history (and that of local health department’s) of harassing both producers and consumers attempting to engage in raw milk transactions.
Another concern of raw milk advocates is that the bill lacks language exempting participants in cow share or herd share arrangements from regulation. Herd shares and cow shares are arrangements in which participants maintain a proprietary interest in the cow or the herd, and are therefore–albeit theoretically–entitled to the produce of the herd or the cow. There is no specific statute in Kentucky law that recognizes the legality of this arrangement other than the general allowance made in the Kentucky Constitution for individuals to enter into contacts. Both cow and herd shares are legal grey areas that have not been sufficiently clarified to the satisfaction of either the participants or the producers.
In total, 30 states authorize the legal sale of raw milk in some manner for human consumption. The states vary as to whether the sales may take take place on the farm, at farmers markets, or at retail locations. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund maintains a useful map giving a state-by-state account of the regulations in place across the country. Raw milk sales, with the exception of permitted unpasteurized goat milk sales, are illegal in Kentucky.
As always, Community Farm Alliance encourages its members and supporters to contact their state legislators and make their feelings known about this issue. To find out who your state legislators are, visit Congress.org and type in your zip code in the field on the right side of the page (for those of you in urban areas, it may be useful to know the four digits that often follow your zip code on most pieces of mail).