Law would ban dairy label on non-dairy items

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation have introduced bills aimed to protect dairy farmers and immigrant farm labor.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., joined with Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson last week to re-introduce bipartisan legislation in the House that requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take enforcement action against manufacturers labeling non-dairy products as dairy.
Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy cosponsored the Senate version of the bill.
The Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act (DAIRY PRIDE Act) would stop the use of dairy terms such as milk, yogurt and cheese on the labels of non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants and algae. The legislation does not prevent the sale of non-dairy products, only their mislabeling as dairy products.
“Vermont’s dairy farmers, already struggling to survive, are facing a growing threat due to the misleading practice of marketing plant-based products as milk,” said Welch. “These products do not meet the FDA’s definition of milk because they do not have the unique attributes and nutritional value of milk. Our bill would require the FDA to enforce its existing definition of milk so that consumers can make informed choices.”
“The DAIRY PRIDE Act is simply about fairness,” said Leahy. “Vermont’s hardworking dairy farmers deserve to sell their products on a level playing field, just as consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re putting on the table. In both cases, truth in labeling matters.”
FDA regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals, yet the agency has failed to enforce its own regulations, according to a press release sent from Welch’s office. The DAIRY PRIDE Act would require the FDA to tell Congress what it is going to do to enforce dairy labeling regulations within 90 days and require the agency to report to Congress on its implementation of the law two years after its enactment.
The bill has 31 cosponsors in the House and 4 in the Senate.
Earlier this winter, Welch, Leahy and Vt. Independent Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to shield farmworkers from deportation and to open for them a path toward earned legal status and eventual citizenship.
Leahy is a leading member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration laws. Leahy also is a leading member and former chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in the past two years may earn “blue card” status that allows them to continue to legally work in the Unites States. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three years or five years — depending on hours worked in agriculture — would be eligible to adjust to lawful permanent residence (Green Card). Leahy led a bipartisan effort that saw similar provisions passed by the full Senate in 2013.

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