Public hearing Jan. 3 on somatic cell count standards
One last public meeting is scheduled for an amendment to Washington state standards for somatic cell counts in milk.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture proposed the amendment in response to requests from the Washington State Dairy Federation and two major producers, Darigold Inc. and Safeway. Their request was to re-establish the tolerance level from the current standard of 750,000 per milliliter to 400,000 per milliliter.
According to the WSDA, the request is to ensure continued sales in export and domestic markets for milk and milk products produced in Washington state.
Nearly 500 licensed dairy cow milk operations would fall under this rule, and more than 90 percent of the licensed dairy cow milk farms impacted would be considered small businesses, employing 50 or fewer employees.
The required small business economic impact statement predicts the proposed amendment will not create any additional costs for dairy operations, as more than 97 percent of licensed producers already meet the proposed somatic cell count limit of 400,000 per milliliter.
Milk processors and the WSDA Food Safety and Consumer Services Division staff have been working with the small number of producers who have exceeded the proposed limit on somatic cell counts to assist them in meeting the new limit.
The public hearing will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 3 in Room 259, 1111 Washington St., Olympia. The scheduled adoption date is Jan. 10; the effective date is yet to be determined.