Kansas Senate bill raises glass for bill outlining raw milk sales, advertising reform
TOPEKA – The Kansas Senate has approved a bill allowing the sale of raw milk on the farm with a label identifying the product as unpasteurized and leaving the secretary of the Department of Agriculture responsible for evaluating imminent threats to the healthy milk supply.
The bill would create new standards for different grades of milk sold in Kansas and clarify definitions and labeling of unpasteurized raw milk available from farms. The bill would not require labels to state that unpasteurized milk may contain bacteria causing foodborne illness. It would also remove bans on off-farm advertising of ungraded raw milk from state law.
Kansas has struggled to reform its laws on the sale of milk and dairy products since a judge in 2019 declared unconstitutional a 50-year ban on advertising raw milk beyond the dairy farm where the products were sold.
The Senate on Thursday rejected an attempt by Republican Senators Mark Steffen and Alicia Straub to amend Senate Bill 346 to transfer oversight of health threats related to the sale of dairy products from the state agency to the governments of the individual counties. Steffen and Straub wanted public health considerations to be addressed at the county level, arguing that the flawed responses of unelected state government officials to COVID-19 exemplify this point.
“That way we don’t have an unelected official making health decisions,” Straub said. “We can simplify things by not giving the Secretary of Agriculture such control over what is really a public health issue.”
Steffen said agriculture secretaries were not qualified to intervene in public health issues. The inclusion of this provision was a “fatal flaw in the integrity of the bill”, he said.
Sen. Dan Kerschen, a Garden Plain Republican and farmer, said Straub’s proposed amendment was unnecessary because placing that authority with the state’s secretary of agriculture resisted test of time.
Mike Beam, who has 38 years of association management experience with the Kansas Livestock Association, has served as Kansas agriculture secretary since 2019 in Governor Laura Kelly’s administration. It was confirmed by the Kansas Senate.
State law does not define any specific qualifications for the Secretary of Agriculture other than the Secretary of Agriculture “must have demonstrated executive and administrative ability to perform the duties of the office.”
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said the state needs a process that allows for a quick response to tests revealing a public health concern related to the milk supply. She said the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture had confirmed that he did not intend to use his regulatory authority to thwart sales of unpasteurized milk unless a specific health hazard was present. obvious.
Straub and Steffen support pending legislation allowing doctors to prescribe ivermectin against COVID-19. Steffen is a doctor and he said the Kansas Board of Healing Arts is investigating him for prescribing the drug during the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has not approved ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 in humans or animals. Some formulations of the drug are FDA approved to treat parasites in animals. Ivermectin tablets have FDA approval for the treatment of certain parasitic worms in humans.
“We’ve heard all these complaints about people using horse medication,” Straub said. “Well, do you want the Secretary of Agriculture to make your public health decisions?”