Proposed Bill Would Allow Sale of Raw Milk in Maryland - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Proposed Bill Would Allow Sale of Raw Milk in Maryland

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MARDELA SPRINGS, Md.- You can buy shares of a company, so why not shares of livestock? That is the idea behind House Bill 3 in Maryland, which would allow people to participate in "cow shares." In exchange, they would be able to get raw milk fresh from the farm.

Proponents say this legislation will help save Maryland's dying dairy industry, while others worry about health risks, and the liability issues that could come with them.

At Beechnut Farms in Mardela Springs, milk is collected from the Harcum's cows, and taken away for processing. But what if some of it stayed here at home?

"I have friends that go out of state, travel six or seven hours round-trip just to come back with raw milk," explained Christie McDowell, a local food proponent in Berlin.

 People like McDowell think those dollars should be kept in state. Purchasing raw milk through cow shares used to be legal in Maryland, until being outlawed in 2006. McDowell is among those who want to see consumer freedom return to the state.

"I personally would rather get my food from a source that I can see the face of the farmer or the producer making that, instead of buying food that's from somewhere else in the country, somewhere across the world," she noted. "I don't know what's happened to that food, I don't know what the handling practice has been there."

But some say the potential risks of unpasteurized milk just aren't worth it. Even some dairy farmers, like the Harcums, have concerns.

"If someone gets sick, a lot of people will quit drinking milk for a while, and that will hurt our own business," said Blan Harcum, Sr.

"They have to have a ‘no sue' agreement that they won't automatically sue the dairy farmer because the hospital, someone says, you got sick from drinking raw milk," added Blan Harcum, Jr.

As for McDowell, she feels people should be able to participate in cow shares, but need to be aware of the risks.

"It then becomes, 'buyer beware.' This bill is not mandating that everybody drinks raw milk," she said. "It's just giving people that want to drink milk an option to go legally buy it."

Delaware lawmakers considered and rejected a bill that would have legalized raw milk in the state last year.

Maryland's HB 3 had a hearing the House earlier this week, and will have to be voted out of committee before moving on to the full House.

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