Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205
03/20/2020 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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HB 16-SHARED ANIMAL AND RAW MILK/PRODUCTS 4:24:07 PM CHAIR MICCICHE announced that the next order of business would be SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 16, "An Act relating to shared animal ownership; and relating to the sharing and sale of raw milk and raw milk products." CHAIR MICCICHE noted that the sponsor submitted a blank CS that makes a few changes, but it will not be distributed until the committee hears the presentation on HB 16. 4:24:32 PM REPRESENTATIVE GERAN TARR, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of HB 16, explained that the bill addresses economic development opportunities and food security issues. Alaska allows raw milk consumption through herd share programs, but it is limited to fluid milk products, which eliminates opportunities for value-added products like cheese, ice cream, butter, or yogurt. HB 16 would open the opportunity for individuals participating in the herd share program to receive such products. She referred to a document from the National Conference of State Legislatures that shows a spectrum of raw milk programs ranging from no raw milk sales to allowing sales at farmers markets. Alaska is among the most restrictive and only allows herd share programs, whereas the most permissive states allow raw milk sales in retail stores. HB 16 seeks just an incremental step out of safety concerns. REPRESENTATIVE TARR explained that the herd share program has a closed-loop system that makes it possible to identify where the product comes from and who is receiving the milk. She said Suzy Crosby, owner of Cottonwood Creek Farm, will show how her goat milk operation is able to pinpoint the milk throughout the process, including specific goats, to quickly address safety concerns. She said Ms. Crosby's presentation will help show the hands-on piece of the legislation. 4:28:05 PM SUZY CROSBY, Owner, Cottonwood Creek Farm, Wasilla, Alaska, testified in support of HB 16. She explained that the herd share program is legal in Alaska but it is restricted to fluid milk. The benefits of herd share include that goats help pay for their food, it accommodates consumers who want to eat locally and those individuals who cannot digest pasteurized milk from cows. She turned to the slide, Why Goats? and pointed out that goats are a good size for a homestead animal. Some say they are somewhere between a pet and livestock; they have good personalities and are easy to keep. MS. CROSBY explained that herd share is legal in Alaska for fluid milk only, and is referred to on the DEC website. Herd share is sustainable, like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) system; the milk is distributed with a scheduled weekly pick up and there is a commitment formalized in a signed bill of sale and herd share agreement with each consumer's contact information. The money that is exchanged is paid as a boarding fee. It is not for the purchase of the milk. 4:30:12 PM MS. CROSBY emphasized that herd share is not a grocery store where someone goes to buy a random quantity of milk. It is dependent on share owners picking up their milk on the same schedule that the goats are producing. Currently, herd share is only for raw milk but HB 16 would open the door for value-added products such as cheese, while still staying within the safety net of the closed-loop system. She explained that Cottonwood Creek Farm manages its milking safety and sanitation by separating the barn from the milking location. Goats receive a pre-milking sanitation spray at the milking parlor. Cottonwood Creek Farm is emphatic about washing hands between touching animals and food. Filtered milk goes into sanitized, prechilled jars. Rapid chilling is essential for good shelf life and good product quality. 4:32:13 PM MS. CROSBY emphasized that Cottonwood Creek Farm keeps good records by numbering each milk jar to identify which pair of goats produced the milk. The farm works on educating the share owners as part of their herd share agreement on how to take care of their raw milk. She said Alaskans have talked about food security for years due to the possibility of supply line interruption. She pointed out that the recent pandemic caused people to panic buy and empty stores of dairy products. However, Cottonwood Creek Farm's herd share owners received their expected milk, a graphic illustration of the herd share program during the health crisis. MS. CROSBY stated that HB 16 would benefit consumers by providing options besides fluid milk as well as digestible goat product options for people who have allergies. Consumers love to buy unique locally made artisan food and HB 16 would allow for specialty cheeses that are not available in stores. It would allow feta, queso fresco, and chvre cheeses to be a legal component of a herd share agreement. Precedence for HB 16 was already set by states that allow value-added products in Wyoming, Tennessee, South Dakota, Missouri, and Maine. 4:35:35 PM MS. CROSBY noted that raw milk producers would benefit from value-added products. For example, each gallon of milk buys an extra bale of hay. Producers could use seasonal surplus milk to have specialty products available during low milk production periods. The safety net of two-way communication between producer and consumer would remain unchanged. HB 16 would enable product sales at markets, but with the herd share agreement. CHAIR MICCICHE said HB 16 is important and noted his appreciation that Representative Tarr brought the bill forward. SENATOR KIEHL noted that elements in the presentation talked about the digestibility of goat milk and that people who are immune are particularly susceptible to food borne illnesses. He asked if value-added products, like cheeses, have a higher risk of dairy related pathogens because the milk is not pasteurized. 4:38:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR answered that Ms. Crosby's presentation addressed the importance of proper milk handling and refrigeration. As long as those safety procedures are followed, the value-added products shouldn't be any higher risk than the raw milk. She said it's important to understand that pasteurization came about during the pre-refrigeration era when consumers became more urban and lived further from farms. SENATOR KIEHL stated that he does not oppose the bill, but the cheesemaking process occurs at moderate temperatures with additional steps. He asked what the comparative risks are with the additional time and handling for cheesemaking. 4:40:41 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR answered that based on other states' policies do not indicate that value-added products present a higher risk. There has not been any increase in illness or anything that would lead someone to believe that value-added products are higher risk. CHAIR MICCICHE advised that the committee will have the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) present to answer questions at the next hearing. MS. CROSBY explained that raw milk pasteurization was a result of unsanitary conditions that were commonplace 100 years ago. She said any raw milk dairy would need to be extremely vigilant with regards to sanitation during the cheesemaking process. 4:42:55 PM SENATOR KAWASAKI asked if the herd share agreement requires a person to sign a waiver, if farms provide information to educate the public, and if these things are required by regulation. MS. CROSBY explained that part of the DEC herd share document requires a person to establish a legal contract to clarify ownership of the animal. The document includes a two-part signature page for the bill of sale and herd share agreement. The document also contains information on proper milk handling. An individual initials that they have read and agree to the terms of the agreement. One line states that an individual has done their own research regarding raw milk safety and are willingly choosing to drink it. 4:44:30 PM SENATOR KAWASAKI asked if the herd share agreement is a requirement within State law or regulation. MS. CROSBY answered that the agreement is a regulatory requirement. She said the DEC regulation requires an individual to establish a legal contract to clarify animal ownership prior to removing milk from a premise for personal consumption. SENATOR KAWASAKI remarked that people sort of know what they are getting into with the information provided before they buy. MS. CROSBY replied correct. She said Cottonwood Creek Farm does not crusade for the benefits of raw milk. The farm's clientele are people who have done their own homework and arrived at their own conclusion. CHAIR MICCICHE asked if she would be willing to share the farm's agreement information with the committee. MS. CROSBY answered yes. CHAIR MICCICHE said the sanitation and safety inquiries are important for DEC to respond to as well. He remarked that HB 16 is the first bill that he has heard that fits with the COVID-19 situation and the food security issue that Alaska faces. He noted that the state used to grow 50 percent of its food 60 years ago, but only 4 percent today. Alaska faces exposure if Canada shuts commerce down or other issues occur. Alaska needs to do more for food security and taking advantage of employment opportunities, he said. 4:47:50 PM MS. CROSBY thanked the committee for supporting local Alaskan agriculture. REPRESENTATIVE TARR summarized that agriculture is the good news story coming out of Alaska. The agricultural industry in Alaska has shown more growth than other states, provides an economic opportunity, and addresses food security. CHAIR MICCICHE noted that the committee will bring up the CS at the next hearing for HB 16. 4:48:53 PM CHAIR MICCICHE opened public testimony and said public testimony remains open for the next committee meeting. 4:49:09 PM CHAIR MICCICHE held HB 16 in committee.