SALT LAKE CITY — Critics of a bill that would allow small producers of raw milk to sell up to 120 gallons of their product on their premises say there is too much uncertainty regarding the public safety risks and a lack of regulatory oversight.
Supporters of SB108, sponsored by Sen. Dave Hinkins, R-Orangeville, say 40 states allow the sale of raw milk and consumers are educated enough to make discerning choices.
"Are we afraid of raw milk just because we are afraid of raw milk or is it dangerous and is there proof of it in our community?" questioned Senate Majority Assistant Whip Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City. "Frankly I am a little concerned that we are reaching beyond the borders of where we ought to be."
But Utah Farm Bureau's Sterling Brown said the bill lacks any regulatory teeth or inspection provisions for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
"There is no fiscal note that allows this expanded market to be regulated," he said.
The sale of raw milk is already allowed in Utah, but Hinkins' proposal, heard Wednesday before the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture Committee, allows smaller producers to get into the market if certain conditions are met, including labeling that includes the product may not be safe for consumption and that it has not been inspected by the state.
Producers also have to assure consumers that animals on the premises were tested for bovine diseases that includes tuberculous and certain other safety requirements have been been met.
Brown said those provisions are meaningless unless state regulators are given the financial tools for oversight.
But Molly Davis, a policy analyst with the Libertas Institute of Utah, disagreed with Brown.
"It is erroneous to say the state would have no power (of regulation)," she said. "I think there is a lot of fear mongering being thrown out. They have an incentive to keep the milk healthy and clean. They are probably feeding it to their family and themselves. It seems hollow that industry is opposed."2 comments on this story
Mike Kohler, with Dairy Producers of Utah, said people have a romanticized view of products like raw milk that harken to a different time, but it doesn't fit with the reality of modern standards.
"When I was 8 I could drive a truck as good as most adults. It was Midway and I could drive to town without much problem," he said. "Still, the cops still thought I needed a license. I don't know if that is much different."
The bill passed out of committee on a 6-1 vote and will now go to the full Senate for consideration.