MADISON, WI (Nov. 24, 2015) – A Wisconsin legislator is planning to introduce a bill for 2016 that would expand consumer access to raw milk in the state, and strengthen the foundation to nullify in practice federal goals to fully ban this natural dairy product nationwide.
According to a Journal Sentinel report, Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville) recently announced that he was planning to introduce raw milk legislation within the next couple weeks.The measure would allow consumers to buy unpasteurized product directly from a farm. It is anticipated that his bill will encourage the production and distribution of raw milk in the state of Wisconsin, broadening legal protections for consumers and manufacturers alike.
“I have always been a supporter of people being able to buy raw milk … to me, it’s a matter of freedom of choice,” Rep. Murphy said to the Journal Sentinel. “I think a lot of consumers would prefer to go to a farm that they trust and buy their milk,”
State-level measures can hamper the ability of federal bureaucrats to control what Americans put into their bodies. They can also provide additional layers of defense against the federal war against raw milk, which has ramped up in recent years.
Several legislative efforts to legalize raw milk in the state of Wisconsin have failed in recent years. According to the Journal Sentinel, the commercial dairy industry has lobbied aggressively against any changes in the law.
FEDS TRY TO CONTROL
Federal officials insist that unpasteurized milk poses a health risk because of its susceptibility to contamination from cow manure, a source of E. coli.
“It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed,” agency spokeswoman Tamara N. Ward said in November 2011.
The agency is certainly entitled to offer its opinion. But the FDA doesn’t seem content to just warn Americans of a potential hazard. In 1987, the feds implemented 21 CFR 1240.61(a), providing that, “no person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized.”
Simply put, the federal government claims a complete prohibition on the transportation of raw milk across state lines. Carrying unpasteurized dairy from one state to another constitutes a federal crime.
But that’s not all. The feds actually claim they have the power to impose a nationwide ban – including intrastate sales and consumption. The FDA said, “It is within HHS’s authority…to institute an intrastate ban [on unpasteurized milk] as well.”
The FDA combined its opinion that raw milk should “never be consumed,” with its claim to possess the power to institute a complete intrastate ban in response to a lawsuit by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF). Additionally, the FDA essentially argued Americans only have a right to consume things when it grants permission.
“There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.
“Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.” [p.26]
The FDA clearly wants complete prohibition of raw milk. Its rhetoric makes that abundantly clear. The federal government already maintains an interstate ban, and claims the power to maintaining prohibition within the borders of a state as well. Some insiders say it’s only a matter of time before the feds try to institute a complete ban on raw milk. Armed raids by FDA agents on companies like Rawsome Foods back in 2011 and Amish farms over the last few years also indicate this scenario may not be too far off.
While the feds attempt to maintain their ban, states can legalize the production, sale and consumption of raw milk within their own borders. Of course, such state laws don’t directly nullify the federal prohibition, but they take an important step in that direction.
Think of it this way – if all 50 states allow raw milk, will the federal ban even really matter?
It might, if the feds can muster up the resources to stop people from transporting raw milk across state lines. But history indicates they can’t.
As far as the interstate ban goes, even if the feds did manage to police every state border and shut down the interstate transportation of raw milk, markets within the states could easily grow to the point that local sales would render the federal ban on interstate commerce almost pointless.
And as we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, an intrastate ban becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws permitting the prohibited activity anyway. The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages the market.
In the same way, removing state barriers to raw milk consumption, sale and production would undoubtedly spur the creation of new markets for unpasteurized dairy products, no matter what the feds claim the power to do.
State actions can open up space for a strong raw milk market to take root and grow. Ultimately, when enough people and enough states join in, federal efforts to ban this food will be nullified in practice.
Rep. Murphy’s bill is still in the works and has not been formally introduced. Once that happens, it will likely receive a committee assignment. From there, it will need to pass that committee before it can receive a full vote in the House.