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The Starkweather Plasterer refrigerator is filled with raw milk purchased on a weekly visit to a farm. Photo by Andy Manis/For the State Journal

A bill that would allow the sale of raw milk passed overwhelmingly in the final hours of the Assembly's session. The Senate had already passed an identical version of the bill, meaning it now heads to Gov. Jim Doyle.

The Assembly voted 60-35 in support of the measure, which authorizes a dairy farmer with a grade A dairy farm permit to sell unpasteurized milk directly to consumers on the farm.  Farmers would need to obtain raw milk permits from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

To sell unpasteurized milk, a farmer needs to keep samples of it, maintain records of each sale, and have the milk tested for Salmonella and other disease-causing microorganisms. Dairy farmers must also provide certain information both on a sign where the milk is being sold and on the label of milk containers, including that unpasteurized milk can contain organisms that cause diseases.

Raw milk has inspired controversy for decades. Advocates insist it is healthier and tastes better than the more processed product, while opponents - including the Dairy Business Association and Wisconsin Medical Society - say it's a safety risk. And the Wisconsin Grocers Association issued a statement this week warning that the extra workload for inspectors would lead to increased fees for grocery stores and, as a result, higher prices for consumers.

Other controversial bills -- such as those promoting clean energy and an election law overhaul -- died at the end of the legislative session.

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