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State legalization of raw milk seen as benchmark
Farmers and raw milk advocates Wayne and Janet Brunner check on their grass-fed dairy cows May 3 on their organic farm in Pepin County. The Brunners had been selling raw unpasteurized milk for 10 years to some 600 customers at their farm when the state forced her to stop last fall. A new proposal passed by the Legislature would have made it possible to sell raw milk directly to consumers right on the farm, but Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it. DAWN VILLELLA -- Associated Press

Gov. Jim Doyle switched directions Wednesday, vetoing the raw milk bill that he had previously said he would sign.

"I must recognize that there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter," said Doyle in a news release. "But on balance, I must side with the interests of public health and the safety of the dairy industry."

Aware that the governor had until 5 p.m. Thursday to act on the bill,  raw milk supporters gathered outside the Capitol on Tuesday, handing out glasses of raw milk and blaming the state's $26 billion dairy industry for what they called "Doyle's hesitancy to sign the bill."

Scott Trautman, who was told by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in October to stop selling raw milk, predicted Tuesday that a veto would have dire consequences on small dairy farmers.

"It is going to be the death of thousands more farmers if he vetoes this," Trautman said.

The Dairy Business Association, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association applauded Doyle's decision.

"The wholesale reputation of Wisconsin's Dairyland would have been tarnished if the raw milk bill had been signed into law," said Jerry Meissner, president of the Dairy Business Association in a news release. "Our long history of safe and nutritious Wisconsin dairy products would have been ruined."

Others Tuesday had a feeling Doyle was leaning away from the wishes of small dairy farmers and toward a veto.

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"The fact he is waiting until the deadline tells me he is hesitating behind closed doors," said raw milk consumer Rosanne Lindsay of Fitchburg on Tuesday. "I feel he may want to sign it, but the pressure on him from big dairy may prove overpowering."

Roughly 650 people either spoke or registered in favor of the bill at a public hearing in March, compared to roughly 25 speaking or registering against it.

"Big agriculture dominates this state," said Joe Plasterer, the consumer representative on the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "It's like the auto industry in Michigan ... and now look at Michigan. It has a shell of an economy."