ODA and Organic Trade Association reach agreement over milk labeling

By Kristy Foster
Farm and Dairy
11/7/11

COLUMBUS — A three-year court battle over milk labeling has ended in an agreement between the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Organic Trade Association.

Agreement

The agreement means that Ohio milk produced without the use of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) no longer needs to carry a disclaimer along with the label advertising its absence.

According to Ohio Department of Agriculture Communications Director Andy Ware, the department agreed to withdraw the 2008 labeling rule if opponents dropped a claim seeking $1.3 million in legal fees garnered from the court proceedings.

“The department felt it was best to come to an agreement. It was in the best interest of agriculture and taxpayers,” said Ware.

Ends the rule

The agreement ends the rule that required milk marketed as “rbST-free” include a label disclaimer stating that the Food and Drug Administration says there’s no significant difference between milk produced by cows given the hormone and cows that aren’t.

RbST, or recombinant bovine somatatropin, is a synthetic growth hormone used to stimulate milk production in dairy cattle. The bovine somatotropin hormone is also present naturally in cattle. Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) is sometimes also called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH).

Expensive

The Organic Trade Association contended the rule made it costly to produce labels and market the milk.

“This agreement is a victory for consumer choice and transparency,” said Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Executive Director Carol Goland. “Now, farmers and processors in Ohio will be able to accurately label their milk rbGH-free, and consumers will be able to use this information when they purchase dairy products.”

Goes beyond Ohio

Goland said the ramifications of the case go beyond Ohio. She thinks that a precedent has been set nationally and it will stop cases like this from moving forward in other states.

The agreement follows a Sept. 30, 2010, U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit decision striking down significant parts of the pending rule created by the ODA to prohibit labeling dairy products as “rbGH-free.”