DOVER, Del. (July 5, 2024) – Last week, the Delaware House gave final approval to a bill that would legalize the sale of raw milk by producers directly to consumers in the state sending it to the governor. Under current law, all raw milk sales are illegal in the state.

Sen. Eric Buckson and a bipartisan coalition of cosponsors introduced Senate Bill 273 (SB273) on May 2. The legislation would allow producers with a valid permit to sell raw milk and raw milk products directly to consumers. The legislation includes health, safety, and labeling regulations raw milk producers must adhere to.

On June 27, the House passed SB273 by a 39-2 vote. The Senate previously approved the measure by a 14-5 vote. It now goes to Gov. John Carney’s desk for his consideration.

Passage into law would also take an important step toward further rejecting a federal prohibition scheme in practice and effect.

The bill synopsis notes that the sale of raw milk “is currently prohibited by Section 9 of the current United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Grade ‘A’ Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.

“However, consumers are increasingly demanding the opportunity to purchase raw milk in Delaware, rather than traveling to other states that permit raw milk sales. Allowing raw milk and products derived from raw milk to be sold in Delaware will respond to that demand while also providing new economic opportunities for Delaware dairy producers.”

During the 2023 legislative session, Idaho and North Dakota expanded their raw milk sales and Iowa legalized limited raw milk sales. This year, West Virginia legalized retail raw milk sales with no restrictions.


FDA 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 FDA’s position represents more than a matter of opinion. 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.”

Not only do the feds ban the transportation of raw milk across state lines, but they also claim the authority to ban unpasteurized milk within the borders of a state.

“It is within HHS’s authority…to institute an intrastate ban [on unpasteurized milk] as well,” FDA officials wrote in response to a Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund lawsuit against the agency over the interstate ban.

The FDA clearly wants complete prohibition of raw milk and some insiders say it’s only a matter of time before the feds try to institute an absolute ban. 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.

When states allow the sale of raw milk within their borders, it takes an important step toward nullifying this federal prohibition scheme in practice and effect.

As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, an intrastate ban becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging 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 and nullifies federal prohibition in effect.

We’ve seen this demonstrated dramatically in states that have legalized industrial hemp. When they authorized production, farmers began growing industrial hemp, even in the face of a federal ban. Despite facing the possibility of federal prosecution, some growers were still willing to step into the void and begin cultivating the plant once the state removed its barriers.

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.

It could ultimately nullify the interstate ban as well. If all 50 states allow raw milk, markets within the states could easily grow to the point that local sales would render the federal ban on interstate commerce pointless. And history indicates the feds do not have the resources to stop people from transporting raw milk across state lines – especially if multiple states start legalizing it. Growing markets will quickly overwhelm any federal enforcement attempts.


Gov. Carney will have 30 days from the date SB273 is transmitted to his office to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action, it will become law without his signature.

Mike Maharrey