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Raw milk bill becomes law in Colorado

DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) is pleased with the Colorado Legislature’s decision to give Colorado consumers the option to purchase raw milk by passing Senate Bill 05-055. Referred to as “the raw milk bill,” the measure allows consumers to buy cow or goat “shares” from producers and to pay boarding fees in exchange for raw milk. The bill requires that consumers be notified of the status of the milk as non-pasteurized.

“This bill is the result of consumer demand for this type of product,” said David Lynch, of Guidestone Farm, who has operated the state’s largest raw milk dairy for 12 years. “Research has determined that raw milk has value to consumers, and those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies have no problem with raw milk.”

Although Lynch and others have offered small-scale quantities of raw milk to customers who come to the dairies to pick up their milk under a cow share agreement, the legislation was a necessary protection for producer and consumer because Colorado law prohibits the sale of raw milk to the public.

“We’re glad that our state has opted to provide consumers the choice of buying raw milk if they so choose,” Lynch said. “Due to the high level of consumer demand for raw milk, independent, small-scale producers also will have a new niche market opportunity.” Lynch’s operation, which provides customers with a variety of produce, meat and eggs through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) structure, is aimed at educating consumers and creating a closer connection between them and their food. He also notes that consumers pay a fair price and farmers can make a better profit margin by eliminating the middleman.

RMFU, a membership organization of 23,000 that represents family producers throughout Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, worked alongside Lynch to draft, monitor and advocate passage of this bill.

“We are pleased to support this bill as one that provides consumer choice and additional opportunities for producers,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “Through RMFU’s Cooperative Development Center, we will support the implementation of this bill and assist consumers wishing to buy food directly from farmers.”

“RMFU sincerely appreciates Sen. Steve Johnson’s effort to help craft and pass a bill that was good for all those involved,” Stencel said.

RMFU member Jerry Hergenreder, Longmont, is an example of a producer who plans to take advantage of the raw milk bill to take his farming operation in a new direction: “As the father of four kids interested in farming, I’m looking for a way to sell direct to consumers and getting a better return on our investment. I also see this as a really good way to develop understanding between consumers and farmers.”

Hergenreder plans to initially offer raw milk, meat and vegetables, but has ideas for a variety of products and educational opportunities from his farm, which sits just on the edge of Front Range development.

Author of the bill, James Dean, a leading cooperative law attorney from Denver, said that those wishing to participate in a cow/goat share venture need to set up an animal bill of sale and boarding contract. Notice that the milk being sold is not pasteurized must also be posted. The other requirement is that producers must register their operations with the Colorado Department of Health.

To view a copy of the legislation, which was signed by Governor Bill Owens April 22, log on to : www.leg.state.co.us. Those with other questions on the program can contact RMFU at 303-752-5800 or 800-373-RMFU (7638).