The Kansas Senate’s agriculture committee rejected a proposal outlawing sale of raw milk in the state Thursday in favor of a bill altering regulation of advertising and labeling for unpasteurized goat or cow milk sold directly to consumers by farmers.
The Kansas Livestock Association and allies in the agriculture industry lobbied for a raw-milk ban or a state government mandate that containers of raw milk feature in gigantic type a warning about consuming dairy products that hadn’t been pasteurized.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee deleted a requirement in the bill that labels on raw milk containers had to declare milk in unpasteurized form was considered a health threat to pregnant women, the young and old, and folks with weak immune systems.
Instead, the bill sent to the full Senate would require product labels and ads to clearly inform consumers that milk hadn’t undergone pasteurization.
“People should know it’s raw milk and that it’s unpasteurized,” said Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence. “They should have the choice of what to drink.”
The Kansas Department of Agriculture, KLA and an organization representing Kansas grade-A dairies selling to processors became interested in oversight of raw-milk sellers in 2019. That is because Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt agreed a state law prohibiting off-farm advertising of raw milk was unconstitutional.
A Kansas goat farmer selling raw milk filed the constitutional challenge. An attorney with Kansas Justice Institute, which represented the litigants, said the original labeling and advertising bill was unnecessary and reflected a desire to undermine raw milk sales.
“Instead of protecting the public, this bill appears to be more about economic protectionism,” said Samuel MacRoberts, litigation director at the Kansas Justice Institute.
Tucker Stewart, associate counsel at KLA, said the organization would prefer any size dairy selling raw milk to consumers abide by grade A inspection standards. That would trigger agriculture department inspection of dairy farms selling raw milk in Kansas.
“KLA believes the state has an interest in ensuring raw milk sales and production meet the same sanitary conditions of all other dairies in the industry,” he said.