Senate Agriculture Committee advances bill to deregulate the sale of raw milk

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, on Wednesday, advanced legislation which seeks to allow the sale of raw milk within the State of West Virginia. 

Introduced by Del. Michael Hornby, R-Berkeley, HB 4911 states that, “Sales of raw milk are permitted in West Virginia as long as the containers are clearly labeled as ungraded raw milk, with the name of the seller and the date of production.” The bill further states that the seller of raw milk is not liable for any injury sustained by the consumption of raw milk, providing the injury was not knowingly or willfully caused by the seller. 

HB 4911 passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 19 by a vote of 76 to 15.

As explained by Committee Counsel Carl Fletcher, “Current law provides that a person can consume raw milk for personal consumption as long as that person enters into a written agreement with the producer of the milk, […] signing a document acknowledging the inherent danger of consuming raw milk, and agreeing not to distribute or resell the raw milk.”

According to Fletcher, HB 4911 would also require sellers to print a warning on the container’s label advising buyers that the consumption of raw milk can increase the risk of food-bourne illnesses. 

At the conclusion of Fletcher’s explanation, Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, inquired as to how many other states permit the sale of raw milk. Fletcher, however, was unaware of the number.

“I’ve watched over the years, and this has apparently been a big issue up here in terms of legislation passing raw milk,” Stuart said. “I have no idea of the inherent whatever with respect to it. Compare it to say raw food – sushi. Any inherent dangers beyond what you’d get in uncooked fish or uncooked beef?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Fletcher replied.

On-hand to answer the committee’s questions was Laura Walker, general counsel for the W.Va. Department of Agriculture.

“Does the Department of Agriculture have a position on this bill?” Stuart asked.

“If you’re going to deregulate it, deregulate it,” Walker said. “I think your intent to deregulate is leaving us out of it.”

With no further questions, the bill was approved by committee members, and will now be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration. 

RealWV will provide updates regarding HB 4911 as additional information is made available. 

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