State Ag Assembly Committee approves truth in labeling bills

Calling for honesty for customers and fairness for farmers, the Dairy Business Association today applauded the state Assembly Committee on Agriculture for approving legislation aimed at stopping misleading labeling of imitation dairy and meat products.

“First and foremost, this is about transparency for people deciding what food to buy,” said Amy Penterman, president of the Dairy Business Association, who farms with her family. “You can find any number of products that are labeled to mimic real milk, cheese and other dairy foods. Customers deserve to know the differences between those products and the real deal. Variety can be a good thing; dishonesty is not.”

The committee today approved two bills that seek to ban the labeling of food as milk or as a dairy product or ingredient if the food is not made from the milk of a cow or another hooved mammal. A third bill would essentially do the same for meat products.

Final approval now rests with the full Assembly and full Senate. If approved, a number of other states would have to follow suit for the dairy measures to become law in Wisconsin, under federal interstate commerce rules. Some states have already done so. The Assembly approved the bills last year but the Senate was unable to complete its session in March due to the onset of COVID-19. The start of a new legislative session made it necessary for the process to start over.

Penterman praised Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Reps. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, and Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, for their leadership on the legislation; Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, chairman of the agriculture committee; and the co-sponsors for their support.

She urged both houses of the Legislature to approval the bills.

“Dairy farmers are proud of the wholesome food we produce. We work day in and day out, and make significant financial investments in our farms and in marketing programs. We want to ensure the milk is of the highest quality and customers know the nutritional value of real dairy products,” Penterman said.