Citing concerns about the dangers to public health and potential damage it could do to the dairy industry, Governor Jim Doyle on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have allowed dairy farmers to sell raw milk.
The legislation legalizing the sale of unpasteurized dairy products has been the subject of a great deal of controversy in recent weeks, after the Governor Doyle appeared to be wavering in his initial support of the bill.
State Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), a sponsor of the measure, says Doyle apparently bought into the “fear and the hype” brought out by opponents recently, who had called on him to veto the bill. Kreitlow says dairy farmers and consumers are being left unprotected now because of the veto.
A coalition of dairy groups and health officials have argued that raw milk contains pathogens that could lead to a disease outbreak, which could in turn cause significant damage to the reputation of Wisconsin dairy products.
Kreitlow says there is a demand for unpasteurized dairy products and sales will likely continue. However, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association Executive Director John Umhoefer says that’s not a good enough reason to legalize sales. Umhoefer praised the Governor for listening to their concerns and acting to protect their businesses.
State Agriculture officials have taken action against some raw milk sellers, and have also formed a committee to examine the issue. Kreitlow hopes the progress made by at least passing the bill will help them reconsider those actions for now and to stop prosecutions until the work of that special panel wraps up next year.
The bill passed with broad support in the Senate, but did not pass with the two-thirds majority in the Assembly that would be needed to override the Governor’s veto. As a result, Kreitlow doubts lawmakers will attempt a vote.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:15)