LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — Both sides in the divisive raw milk debate argued Monday before a Wisconsin state Senate committee considering a bill that would allow residents to get milk straight from the cow.
The Senate's Committee on Financial Institutions and Rural Issues heard testimony in La Crosse on a bill that would allow farmers to sell unpasteurized milk directly to consumers. Retail sales in grocery stores would still be banned. A similar hearing was held in Madison last week.
Supporters tout the taste and health benefits of raw milk and say it's a matter of personal freedom. But opponents argue that unpasteurized milk is a hazard to public health and to Wisconsin's $2.6 billion dairy industry.
State Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, told the committee the bill offers guidelines for what is already happening.
"What is a reasonable framework for selling something people want to purchase?" Danou said. "Unregulated black markets aren't a good idea."
Raw milk proponents note that eight of the nation's top 10 dairy producing states — including California, the largest — allow for the sale of unpasteurized milk.
Industry groups are scrambling to stop that.