Louisiana Lawmakers’ Vote Curdles Hopes for Raw Milk Bill

Published May 24, 2016

Louisiana lawmakers rejected a bill that would have made it legal for consumers to purchase raw milk from farmers, after legislators in one chamber of the General Assembly approved the proposal.

In April, lawmakers in the Louisiana Senate approved Senate Bill 29, a bill sponsored by state Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte). LaFleur’s bill would have allowed Louisiana consumers to purchase unpasteurized milk from farmers in the state.

In May, the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development rejected the bill.

Promoting Local Farmers

Pete Kennedy, an attorney with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting “the rights of farmers and consumers to engage in direct commerce,” says the bill would have helped the state’s farmers by encouraging consumers to buy more locally grown foods.

“I just think raw milk is a local food,” Kennedy said. “It’s kind of the gateway to small-farm prosperity, in a sense. It’s what gets the customer on the farm in the first place, and once there, they tend to buy other things like meat and eggs, for example.”

‘Resistance’ Wearing Down

Kennedy says lawmakers across the nation are becoming more open to getting the government out of the way of farmers and consumers’ voluntary exchanges.

“Overall, despite Louisiana right now, the resistance is coming down,” Kennedy said.  “Forty-two or 43 states have legal access to raw milk, in one manner or another. States like Louisiana are the minority now, and in time, Louisiana will be part of the majority.”

Moo-ving Government Out of the Way

Baylen Linnekin, an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University, says getting government out of the way would increase consumer safety.

“Allowing farmers to sell milk directly to consumers is a great idea,” says Linnekin. “Legal, regulated sales are far safer than ones that are made on the black market. The problem is that the powerful interests stacked against the typically small farmers who sell it make legalizing raw milk sales an uphill battle.”

‘Just Another Food’

Linnekin says people should be allowed to choose what kinds of foods they eat.

“It’s just another food,” Linnekin said. “I mean, as with any fight over food choices, it comes down to freedom of choice. People have a right to make their own food choices. That’s the very essence of food freedom. It doesn’t make that food any better or worse than other foods, whether it is raw milk or soda or foie gras or Egg Beaters. People have a right to make their own food choices.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.