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Should Vermonters have more access to raw milk? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Should Vermonters have more access to raw milk?

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

A Vermont great dairy debate-- raw milk versus pasteurized milk.

"People really desire a raw product, something that hasn't been altered by pasteurization or been altered in the name of profit more often than not," said Nathan Rogers, who owns Rogers Farmstead.

"We are very proud of the milk we produce and we like that it's pasteurized and it's safe," said Jane Clifford, the executive director of the Green Mountain Dairy Farmers Cooperative and co-owner of Clifford Dairy.

The sale of raw milk in our region is allowed, but there are restrictions aimed at protecting the public from getting sick. Tier 2 dairy farmers can sell up to 40 gallons a day of raw milk from their farms, but now they say it's about taking it to market."

"If you're gonna do this and do this safely, you have to have the ability to move the product," Rogers said. "And if it's sitting around, that doesn't help. It's all about being able to create an economic business model that will work for the farmer."

The House Agriculture Committee heard testimony Tuesday on bill S.70. If passed, the bill would allow tier 2 or larger dairy producers to deliver to farmers markets.

Jane Clifford says Vermont produces 2 billion pounds of milk every year and it's pasteurized for a reason.

"The challenge we have with unpasteurized milk or raw milk is, shall we say, the bacteria that milk carries," she said.

Health professionals and some who make their living selling milk argue even the cleanest farms could be at risk. Pasteurization can kill the E.coli bacteria which can be deadly.

Critics say if the bill passes, consumers may not know the risks of what they are buying. But raw milk producers say their product is completely safe and thoroughly tested, and drinking and buying raw milk is a choice.

"It's all about what you as an individual feel is safe, what you as an individual choose to do with your own body and your family," Rogers said. "And that's really for us what it comes down to, the fundamental right to make the decision yourself."

Raw milk producers say they represent a small fraction of dairy farmers in Vermont and they serve a niche market, but they want to be able to sustain a viable business through the expansion of their method of sale. Opponents of S.70 say the problem with selling raw milk to farmers markets is oversight.

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