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.