Board rejects emergency rule on bulk milk pickup standards
Haulers want to see change that would allow partial pickup
Picking up milk from Wisconsin's 11,000 milk producers and getting it to the more than 400 dairy plants in the state is a complicated process. Every day there are thousands of truckloads of milk moving around the state.
There are 2,600 bulk milk haulers licensed in Wisconsin carrying out this complex transportation web of milk.
These truckers have complained to state regulators about rules that they feel should be changed that might help make them more efficient.
They would "like to see harmony between states" says Steve Ingham, who is the Administrator of the Food Safety Division at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP.)
During last week's meeting of the citizen policy board for the department, Ingham proposed an emergency rule, followed by an identical permanent rule that, would allow bulk milk haulers to pick up part of the milk from a farm's bulk milk tank.
Current rules prohibit haulers from leaving any milk in the tank when they pick up milk. Haulers say this regulation disallowing partial pickup of milk sets them apart from surrounding states and forces more trucks to run on the highways over their weight limitation.
Ingham said he proposed the emergency rule so the department could make the change quickly while the permanent rule would allow the department to navigate the lengthy rulemaking process.
The identical rules would make Wisconsin consistent with its neighbors and would still put the state in compliance with the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO.)
The interstate aspect is important, since some of the milk produced in Wisconsin crosses state lines to be processed.
An emergency rule can be almost immediate, he told the board, and can be renewed once. Any kind of permanent rule takes about a year to complete.
The PMO, he said, states that if part of the milk is taken out of the bulk milk cooler, the tank must be completely emptied within 72 hours and sanitized.
Board member John Koepke, who is a dairy farmer, said he had talked with his hauler and his cooperative about the rule change and "neither seemed real excited about it."
He noted that some dairy farms have grown their herds, but not their bulk tanks and in some cases, haulers are arriving at the farm two and three times each day to pick up milk.
Ingham said he had heard some of the same concerns but said that's a minority of situations on state farms.
Koepke said that as a dairy farmer and as someone who has been trained as a weigher/sampler for milk, he is concerned that the rule change will leave state farmers open for more milk quality issues.
Partial pickup of milk will mean that the portion of milk that sits between the bulk tank and the external valve will not be cooled and will therefore probably create quality issues.
Ingham, who is a trained microbiologicst, said they had done a pilot study and that there have been no detectable plate count problem using this procedure.
Milk plants, he added, can decide for themselves if they don't want to take milk that comes in from partial pickups.
Secretary Ben Brancel said the idea behind the change in regulation was to allow milk haulers to fully utilize their tankers. The state doesn't specifically mandate how often milk must be picked up, but does mandate that once it is emptied it must be cleaned.
The board moved to reject the emergency rule and go forward with the standard regulation so that the department could go through the hearing process and get more input on the issue.