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Lawmaker to introduce bill legalizing raw milk sales

Published On: Mar 18 2013 10:14:47 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 19 2013 11:50:18 AM CDT

MADISON, Wis. -

As one seller of raw milk went to court Monday, a Republican state senator said he planned to introduce legislation at the Capitol to legalize sales.

Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said he would put forward a bill in the next 2-3 weeks.

He said it would include more regulation, such as testing and ensuring Grade A milk quality, than a similar measure that passed the legislature three years ago. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle, citing health concerns, vetoed that bill.

"It'll probably need to (have) a little more regulation in order to get the bill through the legislature," Grothman said.

Gov. Scott Walker would consider a bill to allow limited raw milk sales, if it had food safety protections, said Jocelyn Webster, a spokeswoman.

Right now, 29 states allow for some form of raw milk sales, either at retail outlets or on the originating farm, according to the website RealRawMilkFacts.com, which says it doesn't endorse either side.

The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association and Wisconsin Cheesemakers have urged lawmakers not to sign on or support future raw milk legislation.

Raw milk leads to far more outbreaks and health problems than pasteurized milk, said Shawn Pfaff, who lobbies on behalf of the Wisconsin Cheesemakers for a group called the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition.

That could harm the image of the state's $26.5 billion dairy industry, he said.

"We would hate to see an outbreak occur, or a series of outbreaks occur, to cause us to lose that brand," Pfaff said. "If an outbreak were to occur, what would that do if people were to stop drinking milk?"

Meanwhile, the case against one raw milk seller was again delayed in a Sauk County courtroom Monday.

Loganville dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger has been in and out of court since 2011, when the state shut down his raw milk retail operation. At the time, Hershberger ignored a state order not to sell the milk.

Sauk County Judge James Evenson heard arguments on Monday whether religion kept Hershberger from challenging the order in court.

The trial was supposed to start in January, but now won't start until at least May. Evenson is scheduled to make a decision on the latest motion in late April.

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