HB521 seeks to legalize the sale of raw milk
A house bill that seeks to legalize the sale of raw milk and raw milk products has its first Senate committee hearing next week.
HB521 HD1 was introduced by Representative Mark Nakashima(Hamakua, Hilo, Ka‘ūmana) who chairs the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. Rep. Nakashima says the measure aims to create greater food security for small communities.
He also says by allowing raw milk and its related products to be sold directly to consumers, predominantly by smaller farms and producers, communities can play a greater role in the way they sustain themselves. If passed, the bill will also allow the sale of raw goat milk for pet consumption.
“Food security is an economic issue,” said Representative Nakashima. “That means we need to create better access to more locally sourced affordable products. This bill will empower a new kind of community-based dairy producer who will be able to provide the kinds of affordable food offerings that folks in rural and underserved communities throughout Hawaiʻi have been waiting for.”
The Senate Committees on Agriculture & Environment and Health & Human Services announced that they have scheduled the bill for a joint public hearing on Monday, March 20 at 1:30 p.m. The bill’s next assignment is the Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee.
In 1970, Hawaiʻi had 120 milk operations making it among the most self-sufficient milk producing states in the nation. Then, in 2009, that number slipped to just 15 dairies and today there is only one legally functioning Grade A dairy farm in operation on Hawaiʻi Island. But even the farm imports thousands of gallons of milk from California to meet customer demand just so that it can follow the law, according to Rep. Nakashima.
HB521 HD1 would allow smaller farmers and ranchers with a head count of 10 cows or less to produce raw milk and sell it directly to community members, whether that be through a food hub, nonprofit, or even to a neighbor.
“Not only do they get to sell the milk they obtain from their small number of livestock, but they can also make a diverse array of food products from that one source and turn a food desert into a self-sustaining oasis,” Rep. Nakashima said.
To submit testimony and track the measure’s progress visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov and search HB521.