Home > 2014 SD Legislative Session, Free Market, South Dakota > Can the SD Dept of Ag be trusted to fix the raw milk regulations?

Can the SD Dept of Ag be trusted to fix the raw milk regulations?

March 8, 2014

milkAbout a month ago I blogged about SD SB 126.  This bill was brought forth to undo rules put forth by the SD Department of Ag last fall in order to regulate kill the raw milk industry in South Dakota. That bill was tabled in committee on Feb 21 due to a deal being worked out between Lucas Lentsch (Secretary of Agriculture) and proponents of raw milk. I was not happy with this move when it happened, and I am still unhappy a couple of weeks later.

Going back, testimony was heard for SB126 on February 7 before the Senate Health and Human Services committee. Testimony was long, for both proponents and opponents of raw milk. Personally I think the proponents did a great job of showing the value of raw milk and how the regulations passed last fall were killing the small raw milk industry. It was quite clear from much of the opponent testimony that ‘reasonable regulations’ were never a goal. I actually sat in the middle of the opponents to SB128 in the committee room. From the whispers I overheard and body language it was quite clear that most of the opponents of SB126 believe raw milk is bad in all circumstances and should be illegal.  Action was deferred at the end of the hearing.

On Feb 21 the committee took action on the bill. Before action one opponent and one proponent were allowed to speak about the bill.

Secretary Lentsch was allowed to speak first. He had worked out a deal with proponents of SB126 in order to get the bill killed. Secretary Lentsch said he would lead a one year workgroup looking into regulations for raw milk. Updates from this workgroup will be provided upon request to the Government Operations Accountability Committee (GOAC). The members of this committee would include representatives from:

  • the dairy sector
  • current & previously permitted bottled raw milk producers
  • SDSU
  • SD Dairy Producers Association
  • SD Department of Ag

Lentsch did add that the membership may grow. He also said the current raw milk rules laid out in 12:81 will be done with “secretarial discretion”. So, the current rules are going to be kept, but we have to trust that he will do the right thing…

Sabrina King, lobbyist for Dakota Rural Action, was then allowed to give some remarks. King spoke in favor of the workgroup, and actually mentioned this is something raw milk advocates had asked for last year during the hearings. She also said there would need to be some rebuilding of relationships and trust between the advocates of raw milk and regulators. After trying to kill the raw milk industry, I believe the regulators at the Dept of Ag have a lot of work to do in order to rebuild any trust.

King also stated she understood that any issues with the current rules would be quickly addressed by the workgroup. This is in contrast to the “secretarial discretion” mentioned by Lentsch. The workgroup hasn’t even’t started and both sides appear to have different views of how things will proceed. That is not a good sign.

After Lentsch and King spoke it was moved to table the bill, thereby killing any real attempts to undo the industry-killing regulations put forth by the Dept of Ag last year. The tabling passed with only one Nay vote (I think Sen Bradford was confused about what was actually happening, thus his no vote).

Apparently a letter of intent will be presented to the GOAC after the legislative session. GOAC will then proceed to ensure the worgroup is created and begins it work.

I do not think this was a good solution. I understand why Dakota Rural Action took this deal. It allows them to work with the Department of Ag on creating realistic regulations that can both protect the public and allow the raw milk industry to survive. But I cannot forget the outright anti-raw-milk attitude I was sensing from the regulators as I sat through the testimony on Feb 7. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Secretary Lentsch says he is a fair and honest person. Yet nothing about his, or his staffs, demeanor portrayed any wish to be fair when dealing with raw milk. Going forward Lentsch’s “secretarial discretion” will have to closely watched.

Since the proposed makeup of the workgroup is composed mostly of groups that spoke against raw milk, I don’t believe this workgroup will in fact be worried about what is fair. Instead I fear the workgroup will find ways to show the current industry-killing regulations didn’t go far enough. In that case I believe SB126 will be resurrected in the 2015 legislative session. Hopefully there will be a raw milk industry left to protect by that time….

  1. March 8, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Ken, thank you for attending the hearings for SB 126. I appreciate your writing this post. If SB 126 had made it out of committee, what do you feel the chances of the Governor signing SB 126 would’ve been?

    • March 9, 2014 at 10:26 am

      I think this is a case where Daugaard would have shown support for Secretary Lentsch, and veto’d it.

  1. May 19, 2014 at 5:57 pm
  2. June 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm
  3. July 7, 2014 at 2:25 pm
  4. January 26, 2015 at 11:09 pm
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