State News

Raw milk producers say new rules hurt business

By Morgan True,

Raw milk producers held a news conference Wednesday to say new Agency of Agriculture policies are making an otherwise friendly law more burdensome.

The original raw milk law, passed in 2009, required producers to regularly send milk samples to certified labs to check bacteria levels. A new policy requires that samples be sent to labs in the containers in which the milk will be sold.

Labs only need a two-ounce sample to test for bacteria, said Nick Zigelbaum, director of Bob-White Systems Inc., an FDA certified laboratory in South Royalton. Zigelbaum said the state should be making it easier for farmers to have their products tested, not create barriers to testing.

The new regulations took effect Wednesday, Oct. 1, and Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont, said despite a formal letter to the Agency of Agriculture, producers were not given an opportunity to weigh in on how the rules would be implemented.

The agency is simply implementing changes to the state’s raw milk regulations that became law this year, said Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of dairy policy. The agency is not going through a formal rulemaking process, Bothfeld said, and no public comment period is required. However, Bothfeld said the agency is willing to take input from producers and Rural Vermont, but that can’t happen until early November because the agency needs time to review its own policies. Bothfeld said the new law requires that sale containers be tested in addition to the milk to ensure there are no bacteria in the containers that are not also in the milk.

Tier 2 raw milk producers who generate more than 50 quarts per day are now allowed to deliver their product to customers’ homes or farmers’ markets.

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