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Raw Milk Revolution: 2023’s Milestones in State Legislation

In the last ten years, many states have been changing their laws concerning raw milk and raw milk products, with 2023 being a pivotal year. The resistance to these changes from the dairy industry and public health agencies has lessened, while the demand for raw dairy products, including those from Jersey Cows, has been growing. Currently, 46 states allow some form of raw milk sales for human consumption, pet consumption, or distribution through herdshare agreements. Only Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, and Rhode Island still prohibit the sale or distribution of raw milk.

Graphic: Real Milk Legal Map 

This year, several states made significant progress in expanding the legalization of raw dairy products:

  1. IDAHO – Senate Bill 1036 (SB 1036) removed the limit on the number of dairy animals allowed in herdshare operations, which was previously restricted.
  2. IOWA – Iowa became the 46th state to legalize raw milk sales or distribution through Senate File 315 (SF 315). This law allows the sale of dairy products directly from the producer to the consumer, with specific regulations on testing, labeling, and recordkeeping.
  3. NORTH DAKOTA – House Bill 1515 (HB 1515) legalized the sale of raw milk and other dairy products directly from producers to consumers. This expanded beyond the previous allowance for distribution through herdshare agreements.
  4. UTAH – House Bill 320 (HB 320) legalized retail sales of raw milk and raw milk products if a licensed producer has a majority ownership in the retail store. This bill also allows on-farm sales and delivery via refrigerated mobile units.
  5. WYOMING – Senate Bill 102 (SB 102) permits the sale of various raw dairy products produced by unregulated producers in retail stores. This goes beyond the previous limit of direct-to-consumer sales.

The most significant development in 2023 occurred in Iowa, a state with a history of harsh restrictions on raw milk sales. This change was achieved after 17 years of efforts by Senator Jason Schultz, farmer Tom German, and others. Dairy farmer Esther Arkfeld played a crucial role in advocating for raw milk legalization in Iowa, with support from lobbyist Tyler Raygor.

A growing trend is the legalization of a wide range of raw dairy products, beyond just raw milk, in various states. This trend has also been observed in Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, and Texas since 2021. This is good news for small-scale dairy farmers as it opens up opportunities in the value-added market. The opposition from the dairy processing lobby has also decreased compared to the past.

The primary argument against raw milk legalization has been food safety concerns, but these concerns are diminishing. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed a low number of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to raw milk consumption in 2020. This is significant, considering the increasing number of raw milk consumers.

With rising demand, reduced illness instances, and concerns about the quality of conventional food supplies, the case for legalizing raw milk has grown stronger. Hawaii might be the next state to consider lifting the ban on raw milk sales, which has seen bills for micro dairies making progress in the House.

As more states reconsider their stance on raw milk, the goal of achieving legal raw milk distribution in every state, as envisioned by Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, is getting closer to becoming a reality.

References:

  1. WAPF, Raw Milk Legal Map and State-by-State Notes, last updated on July 11, 2023. Link to Realmilk.com
  2. Tony Leys, “Public Health Has Lost the War – States legalize raw milk, despite public health warnings,” USA Today, July 3, 2023. Link to USA Today
  3. Cover image credit: Opal Marie, Queen of Page County, with her boys Chuck and Prime. Luray VA

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