Hough Testifies against Labeling Proposal in Utah; Ohio to Hold Public Hearing
Testifying last week before the Utah Department of Agriculture, IDFA Senior Group Vice President Clay Hough urged state regulators to withdraw a proposed rule that would restrict the right of processors to market dairy products using truthful advertising and labels. Calling the rule unnecessary, Hough asked the state to continue to review dairy product labels using the uniform guidelines provided by the Food and Drug Administration.
Hough was joined by 14 others testifying against the Utah proposed regulation; only five witnesses appeared in favor. The opposition was effective in getting Utah officials to state at the end of the hearing that the proposed rule would not be implemented and would lapse at the end of the comment period, which was March 2. The department indicated at the hearing that it would introduce "a new proposed rule in the near future."
In his testimony, Hough assured the department that there has been no public outcry for changes to dairy product labels. In fact, he said, consumers increasingly are requesting more information about the products they buy, so they can make informed purchasing decisions.
"Let's be clear about one thing — the reason why processors are marketing products with absence claims is simply because consumers are demanding it," Hough said. "You are considering a rule which will tie our hands when it comes to listening to consumer preference," he continued, adding that consumers might stay away from the dairy case if denied this information.
Hough warned that these restrictions could harm both producers and processors by reducing the demand for dairy products, and that the ongoing public debate could lead to the loss of consumer confidence and trust in dairy products.
In addition to denying consumers their right to know whether the products contain milk from cows not treated with rbST, the proposed rule would help to create a patchwork of product labeling requirements. The varying requirements would likely be inconsistent across state lines, Hough said.
IDFA is witnessing a nationwide campaign to increase the sales of rbST through a state-by-state effort to make labeling requirements so restrictive that absence claims will disappear from the dairy case. In addition to Utah, Ohio has issued an emergency regulation, and other states have been considering legislation - all designed to impose similar restrictions on dairy labels.
Ohio's emergency rule is in effect for 90 days while the department completes its rule-making process. As part of the process, a formal public hearing will be held March 12 to give stakeholders an opportunity to comment. IDFA has retained a lobbyist in Ohio and will have representatives at the hearing.
IDFA urges members with customers in Ohio to attend the hearing and proactively engage the local media. For more information, contact Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3512.
IDFA is monitoring all states for similar activities and proposed legislation, and will continue to provide updates in future issues of News Update.
To read Hough's testimony, click here.
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Posted March 3, 2008