The question of whether North Carolinians have the right to purchase unprocessed milk doesn’t seem to be going away.

After the N.C. Board of Agriculture adopted a regulation in early September requiring the addition of a charcoal-colored dye to all raw milk (legally sold only as “pet milk”), the rule was sent to the N.C. Rules Review Commission. Raw milk activists had challenged the legality of the regulation on grounds that the dye constituted an unacceptable adulteration of the milk.

Attorneys for the commission determined that the agriculture department had acted within its authority, giving the commission no choice but to uphold it. Members nonetheless expressed their surprise at the fervor of the opposition among citizens who protested at the hearing and in writing. (See “A gray market for raw milk?,” Sept. 26.)

Kathy Davis, one of only two pet milk producers in the state, testified, emphasizing the need for organic colostrum and milk for the beef industry and other dairy farmers. She said the addition of the dye threatened her organic certification, despite insistence by ad department officials that the dye met organic standards.

The rule is now set to go into effect next July, barring legislative action. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Guilford) plans to introduce a bill in the next session to halt it.

If legislation is introduced, it will be the second bill in the State House dealing with raw milk. A bill to legalize dairy shares passed the Senate last session, and will go before the House in 2008.

Raw milk is legally sold for human consumption in South Carolina and a dozen other states. For more, see “Drink it raw,” June 20.