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Bill would lead to raw milk distribution

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Farmers and ranchers with no more than 10 cows would be allowed sell raw milk directly under a House bill scheduled to be heard today by a Senate committee.

The latest version of House Bill 521 crossed over to the state Senate on March 9 and is scheduled for a joint public hearing with the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Environment, and Health and Human Services.

It would legalize the sale of raw milk and raw milk products directly from producers to consumers whether through a nonprofit, a food hub or even to a neighbor.

“Not only do they (farmers) get to sell the milk they obtain from their small number of livestock, but they (farmers) can also make a diverse array of food products from that one source and turn a food desert into a self-sustaining oasis,” state Rep. Mark Nakashima (D, Hamakua-Hilo) said in a statement.

Nakashima chairs the House Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection and introduced HB 521, which he said will create greater food security for smaller communities.

“Food security is an economic issue,” he said. “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 Hawaii have been waiting for.”

In 1970, Hawaii was among the most self-sufficient milk-producing states in the nation with 120 milk operations, according to a House statement about HB 521.

Today there is only one legally functioning Grade A dairy farm in operation, on Hawaii island.

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