Libertarian Party candidates taking small slices of the vote from Republican Party candidates was a factor in the recent election years that turned Colorado blue. In the interest of raw milk, not partisan policies, the Libertarians are offering to pull any candidates they might have in competitive districts if the GOP will support tax cuts and raw milk.
Colorado has the West’s most restrictive raw milk regulations, but politics is making for strange bedfellows. Colorado has a fairly typical left-of-center Democrat Governor in Jared Polis. But his profile includes one exception. During his time in Congress, Polis emerged as an enthusiastic bipartisan “Food Freedom” caucus member.
That’s why it should be no surprise to anyone that if votes in the Legislature begin shifting to support raw milk, Gov. Polis will be there to sign the changes into law. He recently went on the record with Colorado’s Sun newspaper., saying he hopes his Legislature acts to “fully legalize the production and sale of raw milk, probably labeled, so that those who prefer it can legally obtain it with greater ease.”
Whether he gets to sign a “Food Freedom” for raw milk law remains to be seen, but it could happen as early as the 2024 legislative session.
Colorado is currently a “cow share” jurisdiction, which means the sale of raw milk is entirely banned in the Centennial State, but eating and drinking the products is permitted if you own the dairy cows. Farmers use the “herd-share” scheme to spread ownership to others.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last tried to eliminate “cow share” programs in 2004. Still, raw milk dairy farmers and their shareholders raised enough opposition to the rule change that CDPHE backed off. A year later, the Colorado Legislature passed a law permitting consumers with an ownership interest to obtain raw milk as part of those agreements.
In the surrounding Western States, raw milk is sold on the farm directly to consumers in Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas and at retail stores in Utah, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California.
Gov. Polis said people in Colorado should have the choice to drink raw, pasteurized, or milk. He sees the risk of raw milk as low, especially when compared to other legal choices like fatty foods and alcohol.
The 230 dairy farms of the Raw Milk Association of Colorado want freedom like neighboring states. And other states that long held the line—like Iowa—have recently allowed on-the-farm sales directly to consumers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1987 has banned the sale of raw milk across state lines. Milk without pasteurization threatens outbreaks from such pathogens as E. Coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.
Colorado has experienced 14 raw milk-related outbreaks since 1989, causing illnesses in 247 people. This includes last year’s outbreak linked to Graff Brothers in Delta County. Six family members and staff members consumed raw milk at the dairy before it was pasteurized.
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