TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Dairy farmers gathered at the Capitol this week to debate whether raw milk should be sold and if so, what restrictions it should have.
The Senate agriculture committee held hearings for two bills on Monday and Wednesday. SB 300 prevents the sale of raw milk entirely, while SB 308 makes raw milk producers place warning labels on their products for potential illnesses.
Pasteurized milk has been heated to kill harmful germs, while raw milk has not. Raw milk and its products can cause illnesses, according to the CDC.
“The food safety issues is what we are concerned with. It only takes one incident and someone’s sick and then if it’s milk-related everyone suffers from that,” Sen. Dan Kerschen (R-Garden Plain), chair of the committee, said. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Kerschen worked as a dairy farmer for 45 years, and said the primary goal of the committee is not to ban the sale of raw milk, but instead to add precautionary measures.
“Everybody wants to sell a great product for the dairy industry,” Kerschen said. “That’s what we all want to do. We just have to make it so it can be done that way.”
Raw milk typically comes from smaller, family-owned farms. Kerschen believes they should have permits and certifications similar to what pasteurized milk producers are required to obtain.
Angela and Blake Williams from Maple Hill, who produced raw milk for eight years, said this puts an overwhelming burden on these smaller farms.
“They can’t compete with the stores and the mass producers,” Blake said. “So it’ll be the end of them, literally, that will be it for them.”
Many raw milk producers make sure to keep their animals and instruments clean to prevent germs, but the people who typically buy from them are well-educated about raw milk.
For some producing raw milk is a full-time job, and many depend on it for their full income, Angela said.
“Your customers are your everything,” Angela said. “You’re trying to produce a great product, a safe product, and it was…very consuming time.”
The bills will have further discussions between the committee next week, and is expected to have amendments, Kerschen said.