OTA Against Utah's Proposed Dairy-labeling Rule

GREENFIELD, Mass. -- A representative of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) testified yesterday before the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) in Salt Lake City that the trade organization strongly opposes a proposed rule that would affect labeling claims on dairy items sold in Utah.

"This rule prevents organic dairy farmers and processors from truthfully communicating with retailers and consumers regarding federally regulated organic production practices," said Clark Driftmier, s.v.p. of Boulder, Colo.-based Aurora Organic Dairy, speaking on behalf of OTA and its organic dairy members at a UDAF Division of Regulatory Services public hearing on proposed rule R70-340. "It also prevents Utah consumers from exercising full and free choice in determining which products they wish to purchase."

The proposed rule would prohibit milk producers and processors from including on their labels the information that their milk comes from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).

Under the Organic Foods Production Act and the national organic rule, animals on an organic farm must be raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. The National Organic Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, regulates labeling claims and the documentation necessary for such claims on organic products. State regulation of labeling on organic products is prohibited unless approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Driftmier observed that the language currently used by the Utah Department of Agriculture's Web site to describe organic production practices is virtually the same as the that found on the packaging of organic dairy companies. "Clearly, the Utah Department of Agriculture wants consumers to be informed how organic products are produced and what makes organic production different."

With a number of states mulling different labeling regulations with conflicting provisions, Driftmier noted, "There could develop a confusing patchwork of different rules from state to state, making it costly and inefficient to ship products to retailers and U.S. consumers."

In advising that that the rule not be adopted, Driftmier said, "While we appreciate Utah's desire to protect the consumer from false and misleading labeling, we believe that the national organic standards provide more than adequate protection for users of organic products."

OTA's over 1,650 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, and retailers. The organization'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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