This is excerpted from Lancaster Farming:
“Heated Debate Over House Bills Legalizing the Sale of Raw Milk In Maryland
Janice F. Booth
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Health and Government Operations Committee of the Maryland House of Representatives heard testimony March 17, 2009, on two bills (HB 1015 & HB 1080) legalizing the sale of raw milk in the state. HB 1015 requires licensing and regular oversight of dairies. HB 1080 legalizes cow sharing or cooperative ownership of a dairy cow(s) whereby all owners share in the products of that cow. Most attention focused on the cow sharing bill, HB 1080.
The Hearing Room came to life as the time neared for testimony on the raw milk bills. Many parents who are advocates for raw milk attended the hearing.
Alex and Daniel Kits, ages ten and six respectively, sat attentively beside their mom, Beatrice; Leah Mack arrived with her PowerPoint presentation and her two-month old daughter, jauntily attired, in cap and romper festooned with dancing cows.
The testimony began with first-hand accounts of the benefits of raw milk to consumers and the benefits of raw milk and associated products to dairy farmers. Liz Reitz, President of Maryland Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (MICFA) asserted that the economic crisis facing dairy farms can be attributed to a failure to provide consumers with what they want — local, raw milk and raw milk products.
Leah Mack explained the impact on her family farm of one Jersey dairy cow and the raw milk it produced. For the advocates of raw milk sales, House Bill 1080 is the preferred legislative solution. No one seemed particularly interested in establishing a licensing-and-oversight system as outlined in HB 1015.
Their main points in favor of HB 1080 were: (1) contrary to some commonly held beliefs, raw milk is good for you, (2) financially strapped, small, local dairy farms will have a healthy influx of new consumers to buy their products, locally; (3) legalization will recapture consumers’ dollars now going to Pennsylvania dairy farms which are licensed to sell raw milk and related products.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Farm Bureau oppose both bills. The Office of Food Protection and Consumer Health Service’s Deputy Director Ted Elkins testified that the health risks to the general public are too great; raw milk is too vulnerable to contamination and too difficult to monitor.
Susan Yoder, Baltimore County dairy farmer, joined Farm Bureau’s Val Connelly and Kurt Fuchs. They testified that dairies have invested a great deal of money in pasteurization equipment. One milk-contamination scare could send the public fleeing from all of Maryland’s milk products. That would be an unacceptable risk to the pasteurizing dairy farmer. Additionally, the issue of liability-insurance costs looms large as a threat to solvency.
Delegate Joseline Renae-Melnyk questioned Deputy Director Elkins as to the feasibility of a compromise, a way to give small, independent dairy farms the right to sell raw milk under the watchful eye of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. After the hearing she reiterated to the raw millk proponents, her willingness to support a compromise plan involving responsible and accountable sales of raw milk….”