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Friday, April 23, 2010

 3:40 AM 

Raw milk bill heads to governor

The Assembly has concurred in the Senate version of a bill to legalize the sale of raw milk on a 60-35 vote.

A motion to postpone the bill and an amendment from Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink were defeated, after which the Milladore Dem withdrew her remaining amendments.

"You're voting on one of the most fundamental industries in our state," Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, said in opposition to the bill. "A vote in favor of this bill is to jeopardize that entire (dairy) industry."

Schneider said one case of contamination would have dire effects for the industry, comparing it to the effect of the H1N1 virus on pork producers after it was dubbed "Swine Flu."

But Rep. Phil Garthwaite, D-Dickeyville, said the bill struck a good balance. He said the bill addresses the increased health risks associated with raw milk and that the milk market responds differently than meat prices to outbreaks.

He also charged that opponents of the bill focus on the health aspects at the expense of the economic benefits to farmers. He said other agricultural producers -- from poultry to pork to beef -- are being wiped out as independent producers.

"If we are not careful, we will see the dairy industry in this state go in that direction," Garthwaite said.

Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg and a dairy farmer, disputed the notion that the bill would "save the family farm."

"There's a reason why they're getting $5 a gallon," Brooks said of the going rate for raw milk sales. "It's contraband."

The bill now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who has not indicated his position on the bill.


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