2019 Raw Milk Legislation Summary

Seventeen states had bills legalizing or expanding the sale/distribution of raw milk and raw milk products before the legislatures during the 2019 session. Three states have passed legislation so far this year but, with many states in the first year of a two-year session, there are a number of bills that still have a chance of passing in 2020.

An untapped source of revenue for producers is the sale/distribution of raw dairy products other than milk and aged cheese. The sale of butter, cream, yogurt, and kefir is illegal in a majority of states but, given the excellent track record for food safety of all these products, there is a good chance that more states will be passing bills in the near future to legalize the sale of these products.

States having raw dairy bills in 2019 include:

ALASKA
The distribution of raw milk through herdshare agreements is currently legal by regulation; House Bill 16 (HB 16) would make it legal by statute and would also allow herdshare dairies to distribute all other raw dairy products to their shareowners in Alaska. HB 16 has passed out of the House and was assigned to a Senate committee before the 2019 session adjourned; so, it will start the 2020 session in the Senate Resources Committee.

ARKANSAS
Current law allows raw milk producers to sell up to a total of 500 gallons of raw goat milk and/or raw cow milk on an average monthly basis. House Bill 1699 (HB 1699) amends the law to also legalize the sale of raw sheep milk as part of the 500-gallon limit. HB 1699 passed the legislature and became law on April 10.

MISSOURI
House Bill 1090 (HB 1090) will allow licensed dairies meeting sanitary standards to sell raw milk and raw cream to grocery stores, restaurants, and similar establishments. Under current law, licensed raw milk dairies can sell raw milk and cream on the farm and through delivery. HB 1090 has been referred to the House Agriculture Policy Committee. The Missouri legislature just finished the first year of a two-year session.

MONTANA
House Bill 490 (HB 490) would have legalized raw milk sales and created a two-tier system in which those producing ten gallons of raw milk per day would operate under a small-scale raw milk license while dairies producing more than ten gallons per day would need to obtain a commercial raw milk license. In effect, HB 490 would have acted as a de facto ban on raw milk.

Those producing more than 10 gallons per day would have had to have the dairy’s physical facility be up to Grade A standards, a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Even small-scale raw milk dairies could have been subject to onerous physical facility requirements. The bill also could have subjected dairies to expensive testing requirements and have made them pay for costs of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation even if they weren’t held responsible for the outbreak. HB 490 died on the House floor vote.

Two other bills died without a hearing that, respectively, would have legalized herdshare agreements (House Bill 521 – HB 521) and would have legalized sales of raw milk and raw milk products by producers with herds of less than 10 cows, 20 goats, or 20 sheep (House Bill 516 – HB 516).

NEVADA
Under current law, producers can only sell raw milk and raw milk products where a county milk commission has specifically certified those foods; Nye County has the only county milk commission in the state. Senate Bill 418 (SB 418) would have allowed producers to sell statewide the raw milk and raw milk certified by a county milk commission. SB 418 also would have exempted micro-dairies [with up to 5 cows, 10 goats, 10 sheep] from certification standards and allowed them to sell raw dairy without regulation directly to the consumer at the farm where the milk is produced. SB 418 passed the Senate but died without a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services.

NORTH CAROLINA
Sponsors introduced three raw milk bills in the 2019 session. House Bill 103 (HB 103) would allow the licensed sale of raw milk in retail stores by dairies with no more than 10 lactating cows, 10 lactating goats, or 10 lactating sheep. Companion bills, Senate Bill 509 (SB 509) and House Bill 385 (HB 385), would ban herdshare agreements; the state legalized the distribution of raw milk and raw milk products through herdshare agreements as part of the 2018 North Carolina Farm Bill. None of the three bills have received a hearing but the legislature’s rule allows bills to be tacked on to unrelated legislation; this is what happened in 2004 when the legislature passed a herdshare ban at the end of the session. As long as the legislature is still in session, SB 509 and HB 385 remain dangerous.

NEW YORK
Assembly Bill 5867 (AB 5867) would legalize herdshare agreements, referred to in the bill as “shared animal ownership agreements”, without regulation. Currently, in New York, the licensed on-farm sale of raw milk is legal. AB 5867 has been referred to the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

TENNESSEE
There were several raw dairy bills before the legislature. Senate Bill 358 (SB 358) which allows the sale of raw butter by producers with a dairy plant license became law on April 30; the bill requires dairy plant operators to keep the butter-making separate from the production of other dairy products. Producers must also put a warning label on the packages containing the raw butter.

Senate Bill 15 (SB 15) would have banned herdshare agreements; the bill died because no companion House bill was introduced. The sponsor of SB 15 later tacked on an amendment to an unrelated bill, Senate Bill 1123 (SB 1123), but that bill died in committee. Current law allows the unregulated distribution of raw milk and raw milk products through herdshare agreements.

UTAH
The final version of House Bill 182 (HB 182) would have allowed licensed dairies to sell raw butter and raw cream; currently, the only raw dairy products licensed producers can sell are milk and aged cheese. HB 182 passed out of the House and the Senate committee, but time ran out on the 2019 session before a vote of the full Senate could take place.

VERMONT
House Bill 525 (H.525) became law on June 17. Among other things, the bill legalizes the sale of raw milk at consumers’ homes and at farmers markets if the producer is in compliance with statutory requirements for animal health, sanitation, labeling, recordkeeping (as well as signage and registration requirements for those selling at farmers markets). Prior to the passage of H. 525, those producers meeting the same requirements could sell milk only on the farm and then deliver it to their customers (either at their homes or at farmers markets).

PRIME Act Reintroduced in Congress

On May 23, Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Senator Angus King (I-ME) reintroduced the Processing Revival and Interstate Meat Exemption Act (H.R. 2859 / S. 1820), also known as the PRIME Act. The legislation would return power to the states to determine appropriate regulations for meat processing within their borders. The bills have been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, respectively.

The PRIME Act would give states the option of passing laws to allow the sale of custom-slaughtered and processed meat in intrastate commerce direct to the consumer and to venues such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and boarding houses. Federal law currently prohibits the sale of custom-processed meat; meat from a custom facility can only go to the individual or individuals who own the animal at the time slaughter takes place–a requirement costing farmers a substantial amount of business. Many potential customers either don’t have the funds to buy a whole animal or the freezer space to store it.

Farmers who sell meat by the cut must use a slaughterhouse that has an inspector present during the actual slaughtering. Many communities in the U.S. have custom facilities nearby but not inspected slaughterhouses; this means hauling the animals several hours to an inspected facility, driving up the farmer’s costs and stressing the animals. There are places in this country where the farmer has to book a year in advance with the slaughterhouse under inspection for the slaughtering of livestock.

The decline in slaughterhouse infrastructure since the passage of the Wholesome Meat Act in 1967 has been one of the biggest problems small farmers face. The Wholesome Meat Act gave the federal government jurisdiction over meat processing and sales in intrastate commerce. At the time the Act passed, there were nearly 10,000 slaughterhouses in the U.S.1; as of January 1, 2019, there were 2,766.2

Passage of the PRIME Act is more important than ever. There continues to be growing demand for grass-fed beef, but with the lack of local slaughterhouses, small farmers are missing out on much of that business. Instead of business that could go to small American farmers, imported “grass-fed” beef has the dominant market share in the U.S. According to reports, 75% to 80% of grass-fed beef sold in this country is imported. Due to lax country-of-origin-labeling laws, much of this meat is labeled as being produced in the U.S.3

It remains to be seen how much market share laboratory plant-based “meat” will capture at the expense of small-scale livestock farmers, but the fake meat industry is growing rapidly at this time with support from major Wall Street banks and investment firms [see underwriters listed in the prospectus for Beyond Meat, Inc.4].

Small farmers badly need greater access to slaughterhouses to be able to compete on more even footing with agribusiness. Currently, only four companies control over 80% of the beef processing in this country; four companies control over 60% of pork processing.5

The meat industry consolidation has led to significant food safety concerns. Inspected slaughterhouses are stretched beyond capacity. In recent years the industry has had over 100 recalls each year totaling over 20,000,000 pounds of meat and poultry products being recalled annually.6

Few, if any, recalls and cases of foodborne illnesses have involved meat slaughtered and processed at a custom facility. Custom slaughterhouses are generally small facilities where often only a few animals are slaughtered and processed each day; contrast this with the USDA plants where up to 300-400 cattle are slaughtered per hour.7 The custom houses, even without an inspector on site, have a much better track record for food safety. Passage of the PRIME Act will improve food safety in the industry.

Representative Massie said, “Consumers want to know where their food comes from, what it contains, and how it’s processed. Yet federal inspection requirements make it difficult to purchase food from trusted local farmers. It is time to open our markets to give producers the freedom to succeed and consumers the freedom to choose.”8

The PRIME Act was originally introduced in 2015. In the House, H.R. 2859 and currently has eleven co-sponsors; the Senate companion bill, S. 1620 has two co-sponsors.

Please support this crucial legislation. The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) will be sending out an alert on the PRIME Act in the near future.

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[1] Riva Caroline Hodges Denny, “Between the Farm and the Farmer’s Market: Slaughterhouses, Regulations, and Alternative Food Networks ” (Master’s thesis), 2012, p. 2. Retrieved from Auburn University AUETD database, https://etd.auburn.edu/handle/10415/3247
[2] USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Livestock Slaughter 2018 Summary, April 2019; Table “Livestock Slaughter Plants by Type of Inspection – States and United States: January 1, 2018 and 2019”, p. 62. Posted at https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/r207tp32d/8336h934w/hq37vx004/lsslan19.pdf
[3] Deena Shanker, “Most Grass-Fed Beef Labeled ‘Product of U.S.A.’ Is Imported”, Bloomberg News, May 23, 2019. Posted at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-23/most-grass-fed-beef-labeled-product-of-u-s-a-is-imported
[4] Prospectus for Beyond Meat Inc. Posted at https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1655210/000162828019004543/beyondmeats-1a5.htm

[5] USDA, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, 2016 Annual Report: Packers and Stockyards Program, Table 5 “Four-Firm Concentration in Livestock Slaughter by Type of Livestock and Poultry – Federally-Inspected Plants”, p. 11. Posted at https://www.gipsa.usda.gov/psp/publication/ar/2016_psp_annual_report.pdf

[6] USDA, Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), Summary of Recall Cases for 2015-2018 are available at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/recall-summaries
[7] National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, & Food and Nutrition Board, Cattle Inspection: Committee on Evaluation of USDA Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle (SIS-C), Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1990, pp. 8, 11, 37, 73, 74, 75 & 86. Downloadable from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235649/
[8] “Representatives Massie and Pingree Introduce Bipartisan PRIME Act to Empower Local Cattle Farmers, Meet Consumer Demand”, U.S. Representative Thomas Massie website (massie.house.gov), May 23, 2019. Press release posted at https://massie.house.gov/newsroom/press-releases/representatives-massie-and-pingree-introduce-bipartisan-prime-act-to-empower