Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 9:00 AM
To sell retail raw milk in Washington, a producer must obtain both a milk producer license and a milk processing plant license.
The state requires documentation of water testing, animal health and processing. State inspectors perform raw milk testing approximately once per month. Test results must not exceed these standards:
* Bacterial count: 20,000 per mL.
* Somatic cell: 750,000 per mL for cows and sheep; 1,000,000 per mL for goats.
* Coliform: 10 per mL.
In one marketing approach, the consumer purchases a "share" of a cow, goat or sheep and in return receives a portion of the milk produced. The Washington State Department of Agriculture considers this a sale.
Cow shares are legal as long as the producer obtains producer and processing plant licenses. Producers may not use a cow-share agreement to avoid meeting state requirements.
All retail raw milk products must bear this label: "WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product."
Raw milk may be sold at the same locations as other food products as long as it goes to the consumer only: grocery stores, farmers' markets, on-farm stores or delivery. It may not be sold to restaurants, and federal regulations prohibit selling retail raw milk products across state lines.
State law prohibits the retail sale of raw cow's milk. Raw goat milk is legal if purchased from a licensed Grade A dairy.
Jim Postlewait of the Oregon Department of Agriculture described an exemption for small farms, of which "there could be a few, there could be quite a few."
There is a licensing exemption for a person who owns not more than three dairy cows that have calved at least once, nine sheep that have lactated at least once or nine goats that have lactated at least once. The fluid milk from these animals may be sold on the farm only if the person does not advertise the milk for sale and the milk is sold directly to the consumer at the premises where it is produced.
For raw milk to be sold legally, it must be "Grade A market milk," which meets these minimum requirements:
* The health of the cows and goats shall be determined at least once every two months by a representative of an approved milk-inspection service.
* It shall be produced on dairy farms that score not less than 85 percent on the dairy farm scorecard.
* It shall be cooled immediately after being drawn from the cow or goat to 50 degrees or less, and so maintained until delivered to the consumer, at which time it shall contain not more than 15,000 bacteria per mL.
Dairy farms whose raw milk or raw milk products are intended for human consumption must be inspected and approved by the Idaho Department of Agriculture before issuance of a permit.
All raw milk and raw milk products must be produced and processed on the same premises. Cow-share programs are allowed, provided that the raw milk and raw milk products are produced and processed in facilities with state permits.
Small herds are exempt if certain conditions are met:
* The raw milk and raw milk products comply with the testing frequency and quality standards set forth in the 2009 Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.
* The number of animals in lactation does not exceed three cows or seven goats or sheep.
* The person or the cow-share owners obtain a small-herd exemption permit from the department.
* Milk quality test results shall be available to all individuals who purchase raw milk or raw milk products.
-- Steve Brown