Wisconsin lawmakers are proposing a new bill, Assembly Bill 697, that would remove state restrictions on dairy farmers, allowing local farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers.
Assembly Bill 697 (AB 697) would also exempt direct-to-consumer dairy farmers from state licensing regulations.
Pete Kennedy, an attorney with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, says the bill would help farmers and consumers alike.
“This bill is a chance to help a number of businesses and a chance for consumers to get a product they want,” Kennedy said. “This bill also increases the dairy farmers’ bottom line, because they can sell more milk. There are no sales caps. There isn’t a limit to the amount of milk they can sell from their farm straight to consumers.”
State Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville), the bill’s sponsor, says getting government out of the way of consumers and producers is the key to economic success.
“Running a standard small farm has become very difficult, but if you can make a market niche for yourself there are some possibilities for you to have a different business model going forward that can allow you to succeed on a small farm.”
Removing Economic Herd-les
Murphy says the real issue here is freedom of choice.
“It’s not about what I believe about the benefits of raw milk; it’s about the freedom of people to make that choice,” Murphy said.
Murphy says special-interest groups are working against their best interests by opposing the bill.
“Special interests here are fighting this,” Murphy said. “I personally think Big Dairy is making a mistake trying to fight this. I don’t think that’s really in their best interest. I think it’s protectionism, and I think sometimes protectionism is misguided. It’s not helping you that much or as much as you think, and in some ways it’s hurting you.”
Murphy says criminalizing voluntary exchanges is an example of significant government overreach.
“What kind of penalty would you like me to give a person who sold a person a gallon of raw milk, or who really wanted to buy a gallon of raw milk?” Murphy said. “How harsh do we want to be on these things? Do we really want to stick our nose into those situations?”
‘A Huge Benefit’
Wayne Craig, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and owner of a small business, says the bill would help people like him and would also help consumers.
“AB 697 would be a huge benefit to our operation, because we do direct marketing through a members-only, on-farm store, which has morphed into an organic grocery store,” Craig said. “We have a customer base of 500 families, even though we are 30 minutes away from many larger cities. The store is the profit center for our farm. The farm, as presently structured, would not survive without the store.