Montana's “small herd exemption bill” could allow some farms to sell raw milk to consumers despite the controversy and legal issues that have made it essentially illegal elsewhere.
The state Senate has made several significant changes to the bill (HB 574), which received approval from the Montana House last month. The Senate changes send the bill back to the House for another vote before Governor Steve Bullock can push it through. The bill needs a two-thirds majority vote in order to pass because of state liabilities.
According to Food Safety News, HB 574 would allow raw milk permits for farmers with small herds under rules to be adopted by the Montana Department of Livestock. "With a raw milk permit, production of raw milk for human consumption would be permitted." Farmers could sell directly to consumers, but not to wholesalers or retail outlets, and warning labels would be required noting the product was not pasteurized. The first draft of the bill passed through the House would put liability for injury, illness or death on the consumer. The Department of Livestock says it's not its responsibility to ensure "that a person is free from inherent risks associated with the consumption of raw milk that is not pasteurized, including consumption of raw milk produced pursuant to a raw milk permit produced under (Section 1).” And it also acknowledges that the State of Montana “is immune from any suit for injury to a person who consumes raw milk.”
The sale and consumption of raw milk led to the raid and at least one arrest of a Venice, California food co-op. Many health-conscious consumers swear by raw milk and raw dairy products as being more nutritious and flavorful than pasteurized milk products, even going so far as to suggest they can prevent, rather than cause, diseases or illness. But the government sees raw dairy as a health threat, harboring potentially harmful (or deadly) bacteria otherwise killed by pasteurization.
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