Louisiana Senate OKs sale of raw milk _lowres

Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.

The state Senate finally got to vote Monday on whether to allow the sale of raw milk in Louisiana. The senators approved the measure, but only after an impassioned speech by its sponsor.

The idea of selling milk that has not been pasteurized to consumers had been rejected in Senate committee the previous two years and was only advanced to the full Senate last week by a single vote.

Opponents, in committee and on the Senate floor, argued that raw milk is the perfect medium for harmful bacteria and if not carefully handled could result in illness, even death.

“The perception is that if somebody gets sick and that happens all the time,” said Sen. Bret Allain II, R-Franklin, “it shuts down the dairy industry for a time. That would have adverse effects on the guys who made their living for generations producing milk.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, opposed the legislation because he felt the bill didn’t include sufficient safety measures.

Ville Platte Democratic Sen. Eric LaFleur responded that if approved, farmers would only be allowed to sell the raw milk they produced to customers willing to come to the farm to buy it. Sales at farmers’ markets and grocery stores would be prohibited. The farms would have to be inspected four times a year. The milk bottle would have to carry a warning label.

LaFleur, a lawyer in Lafayette, called Senate Bill 29 a “Don’t Tread on Me” measure that only allowed consumers who wanted to purchase raw milk the ability to do so.

“We give all kinds of people all kinds of authority to do all kinds of things and we can’t trust a farmer to milk a cow and sell a few gallons to his local neighbor,” LaFleur said, his voice rising and finger pointing to the sky. “Come on guys this is America. The greatest country in the world; built on the backs of farmers.”

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, quipped, “Altogether now, ‘God Bless America’,” as he opened the voting machines.

The Senate voted 23-13 to approve SB29 and send it to the House for consideration.

Taken a little aback having to follow LeFleur’s performance, Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City, arrived at the podium to present his legislation, saying, “This has nothing to do with America or anything.”

Voting to allow the sale of raw milk (23): President Alario and Sens. Appel, Bishop, Boudreaux, Chabert, Claitor, Cortez, Fannin, Gatti, Hewitt, LaFleur, Luneau, Milkovich, Mills, Mizell, Morrell, Morrish, Perry, Riser, G. Smith, J. Smith, Tarver and Walsworth.

Voting against SB29 (12): Sens. Allain, Barrow, Brown, Carter, Erdey, Johns, Lambert, Long, Peacock, Peterson, Thompson and White.

Not Voting (4): Sens. Colomb, Donahue, Martiny and Ward.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter @MarkBallardCNB.

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