Pennsylvania Milk Labeling Law a Positive Step

Editorial from Hoard’s Dairyman
January 10, 2008 Issue

Kudos to Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff for his department’s announcement that it will not allow dairy retailers to market milk with so-called “absence labels” in the state. Wolff, a dairy farmer himself, said that his department reviewed 140 labels and found 16 of them false or misleading. This announcement covered labels promising milk to be free of certain things such as artificial hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides.

From our viewpoint, this is the first concrete step anyone has taken to stop talking about the dangers of bST-free labels and actually start doing something about them. Until now, we have seen pro-technology groups and well-meaning producer action committees formed. Unfortunately, they seem to have spent most of their time and money flying technology preachers around the country to give sermons to the bST choir.

We do find it incredibly irresponsible and misleading to label any milk as antibiotic-free, pesticide-free, or hormone-free. All milk is tested rigorously at least 10 times to ensure that it is free of antibiotics or pesticides which are illegal for milk to contain. We should either be labeling all milk that way or none of it.

And we all know that all milk contains hormones produced naturally by dairy cows, so any milk labeled that way is obviously misleading.

Secretary Wolff’s ruling already is under heavy pressure from retailers and processors, and legal challenges are likely. Enforcement has been delayed. However, the announcement is a step in the right direction. We could argue that these absence labeling bans should be federal, not state by state. But you can imagine that can of worms.

The PA Ag Secretary and any others that follow his lead deserve dairy industry support. We as an industry shouldn’t be marketing milk from certain farms as a superior product, all the while taking technology away from dairy producers and not compensating them for it at all.

It’s not good business for any dairy farmers to support companies and campaigns that pit milk against milk. We’re all together in the business of producing nature’s most nearly perfect food. Let’s get back to marketing it that way.

Used by permission from the January 10, 2008 issue of Hoard’s Dairyman. Copyright 2007 by W.D. Hoard & Sons Company, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

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