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Montana lawmakers again debate raw milk sales

Posted at 3:50 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 16:48:05-05

The Montana State Capitol Complex in Helena (MTN News photo)

HELENA – The question of whether raw milk sales should be legalized in Montana is back before the Legislature once again.

Three separate bills held hearings Tuesday on the topic.

The main bill, from Rep. Nancy Ballance (R-Hamilton) would allow owners of small herds of cows, sheep or goats to produce unpasteurized milk for sale directly to consumers.

It also sets up a testing regimen for the milk – but does not require sellers to be licensed by the state Livestock Department.

Another bill heard would require these producers to get a license – and, another would allow the consumption of raw milk from an animal that you own or partially own.

The milk-producing industry and public health officials came out against the bills – arguing that raw-milk consumption is a clear health risk and that the Ballance bill doesn’t provide proper regulation.

But Rep. Ballance said that other food products are far riskier – and less regulated.

“This is the ultimate freedom bill. What could be more natural and healthful? And it’s time for the state government to get out of our kitchens and end this control over what we eat and drink,” Rep. Ballance said.

“I can tell you voting for this bill isn’t progress. It’s not getting back to basics. It’s legalizing the commercial distribution of an unsafe product that has a history of risk,” countered Laurel Riek with the Montana Environmental Health Association.

Similar bills have died in the previous two legislatures.