LD1786 Reported Out of Ag Committee

After a work session in the Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry that included FOUR separate votes on three versions of a bill, the committee finally reported out all THREE versions of a bill that would allow unregulated sales of milk and milk products from the farm only to the full Legislature. The majority (by a 6 to 5 vote as Ought To Pass) reported out a bill crafted by Rep. Craig Hickman as a combination of the original bill (submitted by Rep. William Noon) and a proposal submitted at the public hearing by the Department of Ag, Conservation, and Forestry. One minority group reported out as Ought to Pass a bill with the language of the original Noon bill shifted from MSRA section 416 to 2901. A second minority group reported out as Ought to Pass Rep. Hickman’s amendment plus the requirements to post an annual water test as well as a certificate showing the dairy producer had attended a Dairy Sanitation course offered by Maine Cooperative Extension.

After the testimony, the work session, a party caucus, and some astonishing back-and-forth between committee members at the end it appears that all the committee members except for one were in favor of some way to allow unregulated on-farm sales of milk products. The disagreement, and thus the three versions, is about the extent of that deregulation. Some would prefer complete deregulation for those who would choose, while others would like dairy producers who do not want to be licensed to demonstrate to their customers (by posting evidence) that they have clean water and understand the basics of dairy sanitation.

My understanding is that the leadership of the Maine Senate and House will choose to vote on one ore more of the bills from among the three versions voted out. If they choose different versions, or if there are amendments added in either vote, the bill would then go to a conference committee for work to become a final version that can be voted on in both houses then, if passed, sent on to the Governor for his signature or veto. Stay tuned.

Request For Dairy Production Photos from Gary Anderson

Many of you attended one of the three raw milk meetings we had across the state the last couple months. We are currently planning to have a meeting of all licensed processors at the Dept of Ag with a tentative date of April 16. We hope that this meeting can answer questions about what testing is done in Augusta (and that is the reason why we are having the meeting in Augusta so that Linda Stahlnecker is able to be with us to answer questions), what type of testing is available in Orono for mastitis and sanitation issues, updated information on food safety issues, open discussion with the milk inspectors and a chance to talk with the person responsible for the milk program. A key part of the day is devoted to answering questions that you have.

My request to you is that I am looking for pictures of animal housing, milking parlors, milking stands, stanchion setups, bulk tank rooms, milk cans, milk storage, cheeserooms, vats and cold storage to answer questions about licensed facilities and how they carry on their milking and processing. If you are willing to provide pictures from your operation and can email me photos from your phone, camera, etc. I would appreciate it very much. I can visit farms, but I am trying to reduce travel costs.

If you have questions/concerns, please let me know.

–Gary Anderson
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

LD 1786 Public Hearing Scheduled for March 4th

A public hearing before the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for LD 1786 “An Act To Allow the Sale of Unregulated Farm-produced Dairy Products at the Site of Production” has been scheduled for

Tuesday, March 04, 2014, 1:00 PM, Cross Building, Room 214, Augusta, ME

You may testify at the public hearing or submit written testimony. Written testimony should be sent to the appropriate committee at: 100 SHS, Augusta, Maine 04333-0100. Persons with special needs who wish to attend a Legislative hearing and require accommodations should notify the Legislative Information Office as soon as possible: 207-287-1692, TTY 207-287-6826, FAX 207-287-1580, webmaster-lio@legislature.maine.gov