The Department of Agriculture is taking a hard-line on raw milk sales in the state of Connecticut by proposing stricter warning labels, more testing, and limiting raw milk sales to farms only.
A coalition of raw milk producers are opposing the two bills arguing that it will shutdown some of the 18 dairy farms left in the state and take away a consumers choice to drink the unpasteurized product.
“This is about support for small farms and Connecticut grown foods,” Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said Monday at a Capitol press conference.
Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said the two bills are an “overreaction to an isolated incident.”
The isolated incident he is referring to is the E. coli outbreak linked to raw milk from a Simsbury farm featured recently in this New York Times article.
The outbreak which infected 14 people was an isolated circumstance, Urban said. The Department of Agriculture “is responding with a huge sledgehammer.”
The Food and Drug Administration banned the interstate sale of unpasteurized milk about 20 years ago. However, its popularity in Connecticut continues to grow.
Chris Newton, owner of Baldwin Brook Farm in Canterbury, said if the legislation were to pass he would lose 50 percent of his profit and that’s before including the costs for the testing.
Newton said he sells his raw milk in seven niche markets, including three local grocery stores.
“If you pass this bill I will be out of business,” Elisa Santee of Foxfire Farm in Mansfield said. She said she’s sold her products for years without any health issues.
Sister Telchilde Hinckley from the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem said the Abbey has been licensed to produce raw milk for more than 30 years. The five cows they milk help feed up to 60 people a day.
“We take great pains to produce a quality product,” Sister Hinckley said.
Urban said the two bills the Department of Agriculture is proposing will act as a barrier to entry and small farmers will not be able to exist.