Danny's Desk: News from the Virginia General Assembly
Feb 06, 2018

Citizens Speak: The Herd Share Bill: 

In the past, we have had bills introduced at the Virginia Legislature to allow raw milk to be sold at farmers’ markets. Those bills were always shot down. The Virginia Health Department brought testimony about the dangers of selling unpasteurized milk from a farm that is not inspected for clean and careful processing. There were also cases sited of illness from drinking raw milk. Public health was the issue.

Farmers who have herds that produce milk for public consumption must have their farm procedures inspected and use product labels, so that the milk can be traced back to the farm that sold it. That milk goes through the pasteurization process before it reaches the grocery store shelves.

Over the past week there was a different kind of bill up for hearing that related to raw milk. The House bill, HB 825, was to limit the ability to obtain raw milk through “herd-sharing.” There was a similar Senate bill.

A herd share is when a person buys part of a cow or a whole cow and the animal is fed and maintained by a farmer. A portion of the milk produced by the shared cow then belongs to the part-owner. That person can pick up the milk and have it for personal use. The milk is not to be sold to others. There is a contractual agreement between the farmer and the part-owner of the cow. The contract outlines possible dangers of raw milk consumption.

Virginia is a “buyer-beware” state, so our consumers must make judgements about any consumables that are not inspected for safety. Since the buyers have signed a contract, then they understand the ramifications when they bring the milk back to their families.

We had visits and many contacts from herd-share farmers and consumers, who want to continue the practice as it exists. They believe the raw milk is beneficial and healthy. They seemed happy with the outcome.

We did not pass the bill that would have limited some aspects of herd sharing. The Senate bill failed and the patron of the House bill came to see me and asked to strike the bill from the Agriculture, Chesapeake & Natural Resources Subcommittee.

Decisions here are a balance between rights and responsibilities, freedom and safety. We hear a lot of testimony that the public never knows. We make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have.

We are currently in our offices in Richmond.  My Legislative Aide, Mary Franklin, is staffing our office here, located in Room 301 East of the Pocahontas Building.  You can contact us by sending an e-mail to DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406, or by calling 804-698-1014. And, visit www.dannymarshall.com to complete our 2018 Survey (bottom of Homepage).