The Wisconsin dairy industry today launched a full court press against the legalization of raw milk sales in the state, pressing Gov. Jim Doyle to veto legislation now on his desk.
In a press conference this morning, state dairy leaders spoke out against the measure, fearing sales of raw milk will cause illness and death, and tarnish the image of the state's dairy industry. Letters of opposition came from farmers, dairy processors and public health officials.
Gov. Doyle had signaled he would sign the legislation this week, but reportedly has had second thoughts when the state's dairy industry rose up in opposition.
Typical of the opposition are statements such as these:
"From 1993 to 2006, 69 outbreaks of human infections linked to the consumption of unpasteurized milk were reported to the Centers for Disease Control. These outbreaks led to over 1,500 reported illnesses, nearly 200 hospitalizations and two deaths…. Signing Senate Bill 434 may unintentionally call into question the safety and reputation of Wisconsin's wholesome dairy products and the future of Wisconsin's dairy industry. We urge you to veto Senate Bill 434.” –Laurie Fischer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Dairy Business Association
"The family farmers of Wisconsin write to express our serious concerns about Senate Bill 434. Signing this bill into law could expose our dairy businesses with enormous accountability and liability.” –signed by 40 leading Wisconsin dairy producers
"The benefits and safety of pasteurized milk far outweigh the purported, but not confirmed reports of raw milk's benefits. Through your leadership, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has convened a work-group of experts representing the dairy industry and public health communities to study the issue. I suggest that the deliberations and conclusions of that work group be completed before a final decision about raw milk is made…. Thus I urge you to veto Senate Bill 434.”—Douglas Reding, MD and VP of the Marshfield Clinic.
As noted in the last comment, Wisconsin Ag Secretary Rod Nilsestuen appointed a Raw Milk Policy Working Group
this past January. The panel consists of 22 members with a wide array of expertise in the state's dairy industry. It met for the first time on March 15, and expects to continue to meet through July before issuing any recommendations.
At the very least, many in the industry feel any legislation is premature before those recommendations are made public. And even then, most are wary that raw milk sales will be good for public health or the state's dairy image.