South Dakota’s New Raw Milk Regulations May Harm Smaller Farms

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Proposed South Dakota raw milk regulations will make it difficult for smaller operations to continue selling the substance in the state.  Department of Agriculture officials finished a third public hearing on the issue on Wednesday, saying the rules are necessary to ensure safety.  A legislative committee last August had rejected the rules until it had more information on their financial impact for farmers.

The State of South Dakota currently allows the sale of raw milk, though not from retail stores.  Farms are allowed to sell the popular substance directly to consumers. Raw milk must also be clearly labeled as raw, but no other regulations currently exist.  The new regulations would regulate the production, testing and labeling of raw milk in the state.

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One of the new regulations would require the labels to have written, “This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria.  Pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and persons with lower resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from this product.”  This would require farms, both large and small, to redesign their labels and in some cases print more expensive ones.

The other regulations are more severe.  They would require a bottling date, as well as requiring regular testing and setting standards for bacteria and other contaminants.  Some have argued that the regulations – such as those designating maximum numbers of beneficial bacteria – are unreasonably low, and will be next to impossible to achieve.

Many who drink raw milk drink it specifically for these beneficial bacteria.  Individuals have cited raw milk as beneficial for health problems, from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome.  The idea that the state would regulate the production of raw milk to minimize the very aspects of the product that people find beneficial and appealing simply reiterates the idea that the state feels it knows best.

Another effect of the new regulations would be the favor of larger operations over small farms.  Since 2010, raw milk producers have been required to have a license or permit, and only five dairies in the state are currently licensed to sell raw milk.  The new regulations would push more dairies out of business by imposing testing and labeling requirements which put extra financial burden on the operations.

Citizens believe this law would violate personal freedoms and give unfair advantages to larger farms over smaller competitors. Bigger corporations frequently use lawmakers to create regulations to push smaller operations out of businesses in order to strengthen their market share by reducing competition. Clearly this is a concern in S.D.

Those who oppose this law want the freedom to enter into private, contractual agreements without government interference.

Raw milk connoisseurs want to consume a living product that is fresher, full of nutrients and tastier, not a sterile, pasteurized product. Raw milk proponents say pasteurization – the process of heating milk to kill disease-causing bacteria – kills the good stuff, and they claim the bacteria is beneficial to human health.

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There continues to be a high demand for raw milk despite the debate on its health benefits. North Carolina has banned raw milk sales, but residents are buying the products through the black market. According to reports, there is such a high demand that distributors have created “drop sites” in N.C. and will only sell to people they know. For many states “raw milk” has become the “new pot” and purchasing this popular substance will continue to be funneled through the black market despite government regulations.

 

 

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