Skim Milk Revisited.

Stop us if you heard this one before: government agency requires dairy to label milk from a cow as an “imitation dairy product.”

If you have been paying attention and following this blog for a little bit, you may remember that in 2016 we covered the strange case of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services (DACS) outlawed a farm that skimed the fat off of their milk creating “skim milk” from labeling the milk as “skim milk” because the DACS was following federal guidelines that say that if a creamery removes the fat from milk, it must also add vitamin A and D back into the milk. It is somewhat important to note that the DACS was following Federal Department of Agriculture guidelines on what could be called “skim milk.” The DACS did not have to follow those guidelines, but chose to do so.

For those creameries that are advertising their products to be “100% natural,” the labeling rule presents a problem in that the creamery cannot add the vitamins and claim to be “100% natural” (and they don’t want to add the vitamins) or their natural milk product had to be labeled as an “imitation milk product” under the law.

The folks at the Institute for Justice took up the case and after being denied by a local district court, they won on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit.

However, the ruling only applied to the State of Florida which brings us to the case of the South Mountain Creamery, a farm in western Maryland.

South Mountain has been legally selling its products in Maryland (which doesn’t have the ridiculous labeling requirements) and wanted to expand their market into Pennsylvania. Upon writing Pennsylvania officials, South Mountain was told that Pennsylvania labeling law is the same as the Maryland law but there was a problem.

Because the milk would be crossing state lines the milk would have to comply with federal labeling standards – the ones that require the natural skim milk to be labeled as “imitation milk” or “imitation dairy product.”

The owner of South Mountain Creamery, Randy Sowers, is taking the FDA to court and like the farm in Florida, is being represented by the Institute for Justice.

Now Randy is taking steps to stop the FDA’s ban of honest labels. He is suing the FDA in federal court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania for violating his constitutional right to free speech.

This means, of course, that federal tax dollars will be used to defend a non-nonsensical rule that was made by an unelected official in some back room years ago.

It’s enough to make you scream.

However, this is not Sowers and the South Mountain Creamery’s first dance with federal officials.

The Creamery sells most of its products at farmer’s markets. Such sales are mostly done in cash and there is nothing wrong with that. Well, there is nothing wrong until you have to deposit the money in a bank.

The Sowers were visited by the Federal government which was investigating whether the Sowers deposits were a violation of “structuring” which is where cash is deposited or withdrawn in amounts of less than $10,000 to avoid Federal reporting requirements. The law was passed in order to stop illicit drug money from being deposited and transferred around. Of course, the idea of Sowers meeting people in dark alleys to sell dairy goods is laughable.

(Hey buddy, wanna by some preemo yogurt?”)

The Federal officials assured Sowers that everything was fine and that no further action would be taken. That turned out to be a lie when the Feds seized the Creamery’s bank account and the $60,000 it contained.

It took four years of legal proceedings for the Sowers, who were represented by the Institute for Justice, to get their money back.

Of course, that was four years where the Sowers had to struggle without the backstop of the money they earned, but hey, at least the agents and the lawyers at the IRS who seized the money and used tax payer funds to try and keep the money were getting paid.

There are a couple of points from this story.

First, it seems the government at all levels – local, county, state and federal – make and have ridiculous rules and laws that defy common sense. When pressed, those governments defend the laws, and not common sense or the citizens. Personally, we are hoping that the IJ smacks the FDA around and wins.

Secondly, the Institute for Justice is a non-profit group that takes on these types of cases. They survive on donations from people. If you have a couple of bucks lying around that you aren’t going to spend of coffee, please consider throwing it towards the Institute for Justice. You never know when you will need their services.

At the very least, sign up for their newsletter to see what they are up to. It is always a worthwhile read and chocked full of information.

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