Why Did North Dakota's Ag Commissioner Pick A Fight Over Raw Milk?


The North Dakota House today voted to approve an amendment to what was otherwise a routine rubber-stamping of federal dairy regulations originating in the Senate which would begin the regulation of cow-sharing programs.

Under current law, milk producers cannot sell raw milk directly, but a loophole allows people to drink milk from a cow they own. Thus, people who want to buy raw milk instead buy a share in a cow so that they are part owners and get a portion of the milk that cow produces.

The amendment was tacked on after dairy regulators told the House Agriculture Committee that without it they were going to define cow sharing as illegal under current law. Based on that threat, which Rep. Diane Larson describes in the video below, the House passed the amendment (watch the video of the entire floor debate here).

Put simply, the legislators were bullied into passing this amendment by a bureaucrat who suddenly decided to start enforcing the law differently from the way it’s been enforced for years. Isn’t it great when unelected bureaucrats have more clout than our elected leaders?

The amendment ultimately passed on a 52-39 vote, and the entire bill passed 62-29.

Supporters of the amendment seemed to think that requiring dairy producers to register any cow-sharing programs is a trivial issue. And perhaps it is, at first blush, but during the floor debate it became clear that dairy producers are being targeted. Ranchers selling cattle directly to individuals for meet don’t have to register. Farmers can direct-sell eggs without problem. Vegetables and fruits can be sold from producers directly to consumers without registering.

But all of a sudden dairy producers distributing raw milk through cow-share programs have to register? Especially when people have been purchasing raw milk through these cow-sharing programs for some time without any real incident.

Given how aggressively the state’s dairy commissioner came after this, it’s pretty clear the intent isn’t prudent regulation so much as a shut down.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring needs to answer some pointed questions as to why his department picked a needless fight over raw milk.