Group defends California's stricter fluid milk standard

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

An amendment to the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee would severely harm California dairymen as it would lead to the elimination of the state's higher standard for fluid milk, the Western United Dairymen's Association says.

The amendment, the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, was introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and would prohibit states from requiring production methods on out-of-state ag products being sold in a state with stricter production standards.

The amendment was aimed at preventing animal-rights organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, from "establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of business," King said in a statement.

While Western United doesn't mind King taking a shot at radical animal-rights organizations, the amendment would have unintended consequences, said Michael Marsh CEO of Western United.

Where milk is concerned, it would open the door to out-of-state manufacturers and bottlers to sell milk in California without meeting the state's higher nutritional standards. That, in turn, would lead to complaints from California manufacturers and bottlers, and the standards would "go away," he said.

California's fluid milk standards were put in place in the 1960, requiring that bottlers that take nutrition out of milk by reducing butterfat had to return it by way of nonfat solids. Bottlers separate milk into solids, fats and water and reblend it to formulate whole, 2 percent and 1 percent milk. California's milk fortification is largely in the form of condensed skim milk.

That results in milk that possesses up to one-third more calcium and protein than milk outside the state, and accounts for 85 million pounds of nonfat solids annually.

"This amendment ... would be a huge blow for California dairy families and consumers alike," said Tom Barcellos, a Porterville dairyman and president of Western United.

Western United agrees with King's intention aimed at animal-rights activists seeking to advance their own vegan agenda, but eliminating California's nutritional standards for fluid milk is clearly an unintended consequence, he said.

Adopting California's higher standard nationwide was one recommendation of the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2010 to come up with ways USDA could help dairy producers after the industry's financial devastation of 2009.

King's amendment was a response to California's Proposition 2 and the potential for similar action in other states. Passed in 2008 with a compliance date of 2015, Proposition 2 requires more space for egg-laying hens, veal calves and pregnant sows.

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross expressed her opposition to the amendment in an Aug. 3 letter to California's congressional delegation.

The amendment would invalidate many of the state's phytosanitary requirements intended to prevent the entrance of invasive species and diseases, severely hamper food-safety requirements and standards and impact a host of other state programs, she stated.

While Ross didn't highlight the potential of eliminating California's fluid milk standard, Steve Lyle, the Department's director of public affairs, said the amendment would threaten the standard.

Comparison of California and U.S. fluid milk standard

Product California U.S.

Fat

Whole 3.5% 3.25%

Reduced fat 1.9-2.1% 2.1%

Low fat 0.9-1.1% 1.2%

Non-fat 0.2% 0.2%

Solids non fat

Whole 8.7% 8.25%

Reduced fat 10% 8.25%

Low fat 11% 8.25%

Non-fat 9% 8.25%

Source: Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute

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