Alaska's small dairy producers are seeking exemptions in proposed regulations that appear to be geared for the industrial scale.
The Legislature's regulation review committee heard from dairy processors and small-scale dairy farmers Monday. They say the rules appear too burdensome and stifle an already meager commercial potential.
Kristin Ryan, head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's division covering sanitary food, defended the new regulations as accessible. She said three operations -- of which two are "mom-and-pop" farmers -- have already been permitted under the proposed regulations, albeit with compromises.
Committee chairman Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, said the regulations ought to be more direct and specifically address such compromises.
Ryan said the regulations are a work in progress that will be revised to address many of the comments without compromising food safety.
Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, questioned why exemptions for small dairy farmers are undesirable given an existing exemption program. Alaska bans raw milk for human consumption, except by the owners of milk-producing livestock for personal use. As an extension of that exception, multiple people can buy shares of an animal, typically cows or goats in Alaska, exempting each share holder.
Ryan criticized that "cow share" program because of its food safety implications and attributed it to a predecessor. She said she'd have to seek legal advice if a more explicit exemption were considered.
Jennifer Ansley makes skin care products from goat milk on her small Esther farm. She said she gets many requests for goat milk and cheese but is barred from selling either. She suggested allowing farms producing less than 10 gallons of milk a day to sell milk and cheese products directly to consumers. The milk would have to be pasteurized and the farms registered so outbreaks of food-borne illnesses could be traced to their source.
Ansley was one of several small farmers and dairy hobbyists to testify for less stringent regulations.
The committee didn't make any formal objections to the proposed regulations. Regulations written by state agencies don't require legislative approval to take effect.