Dairy Lobbying Group Backs Down on “Dairy Pride” Act

In today’s House Agriculture Committee hearing on dairy issues, Michael Dykes, CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association told Congress that he thinks the labeling issue contained in the Dairy Pride bill is “probably best resolved in the marketplace.” This was in response to questions from Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) who said he was “mystified” by the bill, as current labeling makes it clear what consumers are buying, whether it’s cow’s milk or soymilk or almondmilk. Below is the entire exchange.

“We thank Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) for his leadership at the hearing today. We are thrilled to learn that the CEO of the association representing a majority of the dairy industry agrees that this matter is best resolved in the marketplace,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association. “We look forward to the rest of the dairy industry coming to the same logical conclusion,” she added.

Rep. LaMalfa:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, gentlemen. We love our dairy, so I did want to drill down though on the pending legislation, the Dairy Pride Act, a little bit with you. So, the, I love the acronym so that when they get named around here – Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday – Act. That’s a heck of an acronym. So, very creative. So I just, you know, again, we know some of the conditions that dairy’s been going through here with good prices a couple years ago and then, you know, international factors on …. pushing down price in exports and …. all that and at the same time we’re seeing pretty much record production in that window as well. So I’m …. kind of, you know, wondering the effort to crack down on products that are in the labeling process that are not directly from, from a cow – from dairy – you know, such as soy milk, almond milk. Perhaps this is as a consumer protection…

So I guess I’m a little mystified at the direction the Dairy Pride Act is going, because when we’re talking about the non-dairy alternatives that people are looking at that are using the word ‘milk’ we’re talking about less than 10 percent of the entire market share – or a little under 2 billion dollars in sales. So it really comes down to when consumers in the market looking at what type of a product they’re going to be using to fill that …. desire …. it’s a consumer choice. To me, it seems pretty clear that, easily differentiated by what you’re buying in the dairy case as a milk product from a cow or something like almond milk or one of the other alternatives, too. So, I guess I’ll throw it to Mr. Dykes first on this is that, you know, for where consumers do bother to read labels, do you think there really is a problem with differentiating between dairy milk and the other …. alternatives out there – almond milk and other types?

Dr. Dykes:

This is a very difficult issue for our membership. We have members on both sides of this issue. We have members that are bottling milk, alternative milks, juice, water, tea. So it’s a difficult issue. I go back to FDA labeling policy, and FDA labeling policy says that foods need to be labeled to be both truthful and not misleading. So far, the FDA has not concluded these are misleading and there have been court challenges and the courts have not concluded that they have been misleading. It’s been going on for quite some time, as you point out. It kind of tends to pit farmer against farmer when we think about almond farmers versus a dairy farmer, or a soybean farmer versus a dairy farmer. So, it’s a very difficult issue for our membership. The beverage case is very competitive, as you note. So we think this is probably an issue that needs to be resolved in the marketplace, is our position.

Rep. LaMalfa:

Yeah, okay. I understand. So …. would you look at that as a consumer protection issue – you think that’s what’s being pursued here – or is it more of a marketing deal?

Dr. Dykes:

Well, I think it’s trying to market to the consumers to what they want and what they’ll drink. You know, offering choice, innovation in products, adding milk proteins to water so we increase the protein content is a new, innovative product for the dairy, for the case, for the beverage case. So it has some dairy stuff in it. It’s not totally milk. It’s a competitive – it’s a competitive space, offering choice is the bedrock of what we are, and competing …. in the marketplace.

Rep. LaMalfa:

Okay. So, again …. you know, you’ve got people who have different needs, too. If there’s a lactose intolerance by some consumers…

Dr. Dykes:

Or they might be vegans, I mean …. they may not want to …

Rep. LaMalfa:

Or vegans. Yeah, so I guess just the intervention with a piece of legislation, taking that word away from the alternatives … of using the word milk, just seems like a step beyond – especially, say, you talk about the legal issues. It’s been held …. up in court. It’s pretty obvious on a container it says almond milk, or the other types ….  I don’t know. So your organization isn’t really one way or the other on the Dairy Pride bill, then?

Dr. Dykes:

We’ve made some comments on it but, as I said, this is a very difficult issue for our members and we, we at this point in time think this is probably best resolved in the marketplace. And I know the producers have a different view of that, and Jim has a different view, but it’s a tough issue for our membership.

Rep. LaMalfa:

Yeah, certainly. Okay. Well I appreciate the sensitivity on that and … thank you.

4 replies
  1. Nancy Poznak
    Nancy Poznak says:

    Great news. I’m wondering about Mr Dykes comment in the last paragraph, “probably best resolved in the marketplace.” This sounds like Mr. Dykes and the dairy industry are ambivalent and have not withdrawn their proposed legislation.

    Reply
    • Michele Simon
      Michele Simon says:

      IDFA has no ability to withdraw the bill, only the members of Congress can do that, and there are still other lobbying groups in favor of the bill.

      Reply

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