Amendment Banning Dairy Label Enforcement Fails; Processor Aid Passes

Dairy group believes the FDA should not follow the requests of a vegan advocacy group to label plant-based products as “milk.”

Legislation that would have changed how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates non-dairy “milk” failed to make its way into a Senate bill, while another amendment aimed at sparking innovation in dairy processing passed.

An amendment proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had the stated purpose of prohibiting “the use of funds to enforce standards of identity with respect to certain food.” The amendment was part of the “minibus” spending bill that the Senate is working on. It failed by a vote of 14-84 with two Senators not voting.

The Lee amendment would have overturned a recent decision by FDA regarding dairy labeling where the agency was looking at enforcing standards for labeling products as milk that come exclusively from animals.

National Milk Producer’s Federation (NMPF) was satisfied with the vote by the Senate to allow FDA to continue pursing enforcement on food labeling.

“We are very pleased with the Senate’s overwhelming rejection of Sen. Lee’s blatant attempt to interfere with the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to enforce standards of identity for dairy products and other foods.  We fought this amendment because it would have undermined the decades-long policy, established by Congress, that the FDA should regulate food names in order to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers,” says NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern.

NMPF and Mulhern also thanked Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) for leading a bipartisan effort to defeat the amendment.

Senator Baldwin led another piece of legislation that made its way into the appropriations bill that would provide aid to dairy processors and on-farm creameries. The Dairy Business Innovation Act passed by a vote of 83-15 with two Senators not voting. The goal of the bill is “to appropriate funds to carry out programs relating to the innovation, process improvement, and marketing of dairy products.”

Under the amendment proposed by Baldwin and cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), there is $7 million of funding granted to assist cheesemakers and other dairy businesses in developing new products and expanding markets.

Baldwin says dairy is important to her state’s economy and that dairy farmers have been struggling with low milk prices and limited processing.

“I’m proud to have secured this funding to create new initiatives and expand resources for our dairy businesses to foster innovation, improve their manufacturing practices and reach new markets so Wisconsin’s dairy industry can continue to lead the nation,” says Baldwin.

The Dairy Business Innovation Act was originally introduced in June and had support from a number of dairy organizations and processors.

The recent amendment passing had the backing of both NMPF and FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative thanked Senator Baldwin for her efforts to help dairy.

“Cheesemakers and dairy product manufacturers are incredibly talented in making high-quality dairy products that consumers have come to love,” says Jeff Lyon, General Manager of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. “When faced with challenges, it is important to think outside the box. This legislation allows the dairy industry to do just that – by being creative in the development of new dairy products, expanding production capacity and developing new markets. We believe these are key steps that will help support the milk price in the near future, as well as the long term.”

The minibus appropriations bill passed with a vote of 92-6 on August 1. There is still a House version that needs to move from the floor before Congress goes to conference. President Trump has also threatened to force a shutdown by not signing the bill if no funding for a border wall is added.

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