Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Texas Lawmakers Push For Lactose Tolerance

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A new bill by several Republican state lawmakers would make it easier to buy and sell raw milk in Texas.

If a group of Texas lawmakers gets their way, buying and selling raw milk in the Lone Star Stare could become easier to digest.

A bill introduced by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would allow raw milk producers to sell in farmers markets or fairs. The bill also permits the delivery of raw milk directly to the consumer.

Movements toward natural, organic and locally-produced foods led to the recent increase in popularity of raw milk. Raw milk is not pasteurized, not homogenized and currently not available for sale anywhere except on the farms that produce it.

Flynn proposed HB 46 because he recognized the difficulty of traveling to dairy farms to purchase milk, especially in a rural areas such as his District 2, according to his office. Seven of the bill’s eight authors and co-authors are Republican.

For raw milk customers in a city like Austin, for instance, getting to a farm to buy raw milk directly can be a process. Stryk Jersey Farm in Schulenburg is one of the closest raw milk producers to Austin, and a round-trip outing to pick up milk from there could take three hours.

Darlene Stryk, who owns the farm with her husband Bob, said the potential new regulation wouldn’t affect her business.

“We’ve been selling raw milk for seven years, so we have a clientele built up,” she says. “But it would open up the door for truck farmers to sell milk alongside their vegetables.”

Truck farmers, Darlene says, come from small farms and bring a few different varieties of their produce to markets. She says allowing them to sell milk would help them to make more money.

“If they can sell milk at farmers markets they could be able to float themselves through July and August, when it’s too hot to grow anything else,” Stryk says. “You can sell milk everyday. It’s the cash cow.”

Stryk says even if it becomes easier to purchase, raw milk will not be a product bought without actively seeking it out.

The CDC and USDA both advocate against drinking unpasteurized milk. Both agencies cite reports of foodborne illnesses spread from raw milk.

The bill proposes that unpasteurized dairy products come with a label suggesting consumers ask their doctors about the possible risks of raw milk. It also mandates that safety test records be shared with health inspectors upon request. It does not authorize the sale of raw milk in retail markets like grocery stores.

Flynn authored a similar bill in the last legislative session, but it was left pending in the public health committee.

Olivia Gordon is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas.


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