USDA Issues Recommended Class I Product Definition
The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week issued a recommended decision to amend the Class I fluid milk product definition for all federal milk marketing orders. The decision was based on a national public hearing held last June in Pittsburgh, Pa., and will be open for comment during the next 60 days.
"IDFA is disappointed in this decision," said IDFA Chief Economist Bob Yonkers. "While the proposed rule does create a new exemption for drinkable yogurts, we're concerned the new criteria will make milk ingredients less desirable in the formulation of new beverage products."
The proposed rule suggests several key changes in the fluid milk product definition. While it maintains the current exemption for beverages with less than 6.5% nonfat solids by weight, the proposed change would require these beverages to have less than 2.25% true protein from all milk ingredients, including whey and casein products.
In a major expansion of the current definition, the new decision would allow USDA to determine whether a product meeting the exemption requirements is comparable to other fluid milk products with respect to form and intended use. If deemed comparable, the product would not be exempt.
Another key proposed change would exempt drinkable yogurts with more than 20% yogurt by weight, as well as kefir. Also, hermetically sealed packaging for infant formulas and dietary supplements would no longer be required for an exemption under the new decision; these products would be exempt with any type of packaging as long as they are sold to the health care industry.
Yonkers testified on behalf of the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF) last June, arguing against making any changes to the current fluid milk product definition. In his testimony, Yonkers said proponents of changing the current definition had presented no data showing any market problems caused by the current regulation.
Both MIF and the National Cheese Institute (NCI) submitted post-hearing briefs for USDA's consideration. The testimony and briefs are available at www.ams.usda.gov/dairy/class_I_defintion.htm.
To read IDFA's comprehensive summary of the proposed rule changes, click here.
USDA's recommended decision was published May 17 in the Federal Register, and public comments are due by July 17. Further discussion of the issues raised in this proposed rule will take place at IDFA's joint MIF, NCI and International Ice Cream Association Legislative and Economic Committee meeting scheduled for this Thursday, May 25, in Chicago. For more information on the meeting, contact Yonkers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3511.
IDFA urges members to send comments to the Hearing Clerk, Stop 9200, Room 1031, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9200. Comments may also be submitted at the Federal E-Rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov or through e-mail to email@example.com.
USDA will review all comments received by the deadline before issuing a final rule. The agency expects to conduct a referendum of affected producers in each marketing area before implementing any changes.
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Posted May 22, 2006