Vermont State Rep. Teo Zagar (D-Windsor) is proposing a bill to loosen state regulations on raw milk sales in the state. Zagar is sponsoring a bill allowing dairy farmers to sell raw milk through community farmers’ markets and agricultural programs, with less oversight from the Vermont Department of Health.
Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director and George Mason University Law School adjunct professor Baylen Linnekin says Zagar’s bill benefits Vermont consumers.
“Strict regulations don’t really serve anyone’s interest, except those who are incumbent businesses who are already in favor of the regulations, which is not always a universal thing,” he said. “In the case of dairy, pasteurized dairy vendors, most often along with public health agencies are the primary opponents of raw milk.”
Moo-ving Towards More Consumer Choice
Linnekin says the bill was likely to be beneficial to the state’s residents, without any negative consequences.
“This Vermont bill would seem to be another example of that, of benefitting Vermont farmers and consumers, to the detriment likely of no one,” he said.
Linnekin says people should be allowed to buy milk that has not been processed or treated before consumption.
“I don’t think pasteurization is at all a bad idea, but I think obviously there is a segment of consumers who prefer not to by pasteurized milk,” he said. “It may be some of the same people who prefer not to buy cooked chicken or cooked ground beef, who prefer to get it at the store and if they choose to cook it do so themselves, or people that eat sushi. I think it’s really a matter of choice.”
‘Right to Consume’
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s president, Pete Kennedy, says states’ food regulations are confusing and restrict people’s choices.
“I think ultimately it boils down to a freedom-of-choice issue. The law for raw milk in many states is dysfunctional right now. It is legal to consume raw milk, you can’t get arrested for possession, yet people still in a number of states don’t have access to it so they can exercise their right to consume it,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a drug, where you can get arrested for possession.”
Kennedy says food safety regulations often arbitrarily prevent consumers from purchasing products they enjoy drinking and eating.
A lot of the regulations are one-size-fits-all. They make it difficult for smaller producers to make a living. In effect cut consumer access to product,” he said. “I think, overall, raw milk sales whether they are regulated or unregulated have a good track record for safety.”
Kelsey Hackem ([email protected] ) writes from Columbus, Ohio.
“Agricultural Regulations and Trade Barriers,” Chris Edwards, Cato Institute, https://heartland.org/policy-documents/agricultural-regulations-and-trade-barriers/