South Dakota Raw Milk Regulations

You can have raw milk for sale IF you jump through incredible hoops….

Black Hills Milk pulls plug on raw milk sales


December 07, 2013 5:00 am  •  Scott Feldman Journal staff

Days after the South Dakota Department of Agriculture announced it would begin implementing new regulations for raw milk producers, a Belle Fourche dairy decided it will no longer sell the product.

Dawn Habeck, co-owner of Black Hills Milk, said the new regulations would make it too difficult to keep selling raw milk to their customers, who were among the opponents of the state’s new regulations.

The new regulations take effect Wednesday. One sets the maximum coliform level for milk at 10 parts per milliliter. Habeck said that standard is virtually impossible for raw milk producers to meet.

“The coliform level increases every minute after the milk comes from the cow’s udder,” she said. “The coliform level only drops after it’s pasteurized. So the rule basically makes it impossible to sell raw milk.”

Coliform is a naturally occurring bacteria in raw milk that can be beneficial, said Gena Parkhurst, secretary for the Black Hills chapter of Dakota Rural Action. She said that maximum allowable levels of coliform vary widely between states.

Parkhurst said she was saddened, but not entirely surprised, that Black Hills Milk decided to get out of the raw milk business after the new regulations were approved.

“The rules are burdensome, confusing and basically anti-business,” she said. “We’re supposed to be the most business-friendly state, so why is the department being so hard on raw milk producers?”

Katie Konda, policy analyst for the Department of Agriculture, said the regulations were created to establish a basic standard of safety.

To come up with these regulations, the department looked at 13 states that allow raw milk sales. Nine of those states had a maximum coliform level of 10 parts per milliliter, so that’s what South Dakota adopted, Konda said.

Those states are California, Washington, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire, she said.

“It’s not an unattainable level. Other individuals in those states have meet these requirements,” Konda said.

Just looking at one piece of information from several states is not a fair way to create a law because each of those states vary greatly in other ways, Parkhurst said.

For example, California and Maine allow the sale of raw milk in retail stores, while Washington does not require pathogen testing, which South Dakota will require, she said.

Customers can get still get raw milk if they buy an undivided share of a cow and have Habeck become its caretaker. She can still legally provide the cow’s raw milk to a shareholder.

The Black Hills Milk Store in Spearfish will remain open and continue to sell meats and locally produced vegetables and eggs, Habeck said.

The market also will sell Burbach Milk from Nebraska, which is pasteurized but not homogenized, Habeck said.