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Organic Trade Association's Organic Newsroom: Organic Trade Association opposes Missouri's proposed action on dairy labeling
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2008 Press Releases

 

Organic Trade Association opposes Missouri's proposed action on dairy labeling

News Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Barbara Haumann 413-774-7511, Ext. 20

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (April 1, 2008) - If Missouri's proposed legislation passes, affecting labeling on dairy products sold in Missouri, farmers who are choosing to convert to organic production will be discouraged from doing so as will other dairies seeking to satisfy consumer demand, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the business association that represents more than 1,650 members of the organic industry throughout North America.

In a letter to the Hon. Brian Munzlinger, Chair of the Special Committee on Agri-Business (which held a public hearing on the proposed legislation today) and a sponsor of the bill, OTA Executive Director Caren Wilcox stated, "In its current form, the proposed law would deny consumers their right to receive, and processors' right to provide, information about the non-use of synthetic growth hormones. It also interferes with interstate commerce by creating new labeling requirements that are more stringent than the 1994 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance - guidance that was reinforced in 2007 when proponents of state laws like the one proposed in Missouri approached FDA and the Federal trade Commission (FTC) and were rebuffed. Furthermore, requiring farmers and their processor dairies to comply with labeling laws on a state-by-state basis could reduce choices in Missouri, and might encourage consumers to favor non-dairy beverages."

Wilcox noted that the proposed law (Missouri House Bill No. 2283) appears to have exempted certified organic dairy farmers from the amendment, but "there, nevertheless, could be an impact on future organic production. This is due to the fact that farmers seeking to convert herds and/or their farmland to organic production must still go through several years of production when they cannot use any synthetic growth hormone, but at the same time they have not reached the final state of being 'certified organic' by an accredited USDA certifier. While pursuing these farming practices, these farmers must still market their milk, but cannot be recognized as 'organic' until all steps have been taken to achieve that status." These farmers would be deprived of their right to tell consumers that they are not using synthetic growth hormones while they pursue organic certification.

Similar measures that make "regulatory changes" have been proposed in states such as Utah and Ohio. In Pennsylvania, a similar regulatory proposal was withdrawn, and dairies are permitted to make truthful and not misleading claims. The proposed Missouri bill seeks to prohibit milk producers and processors from labeling their products with truthful statements that their milk was produced from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).

Under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) and the national organic rule, animals on an organic farm must be produced without the use of antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. The National Organic Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates labeling claims and the documentation required for such claims on organic products. Changes that impact NOP rules on labeling of organic products are prohibited unless approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. For a copy of OTA's letter to the Committee, contact Barbara Haumann at bhaumann@ota.com.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its more than 1,650 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.


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