The NC Farm Act of 2018, which is moving its way through the General Assembly, is good news for North Carolina’s agricultural businesses. Your NC Chamber is strongly supportive of the bill as a whole and we’re eager to see it become law. However, one provision making headlines could weigh down the entire process: milk labeling.
Soymilk, almondmilk, and coconutmilk are among the non-dairy products offered as alternatives to traditional dairy. While two federal court cases have previously ruled that the use of the term “milk” in those products is legal, NC lawmakers want to change that by prohibiting manufacturers from calling their non-dairy products milk. The move is well intentioned, but it’s also unprecedented: North Carolina would be the first and only state to impose such a regulation, which could have far-reaching unintended consequences on our state’s competitiveness. Since no other state has similar regulations, manufacturers and retailers would have to create special labels for non-dairy products headed to North Carolina, adding an unnecessary production cost that could either increase prices or encourage retailers to simply stop selling in our state.
In March, Congress instructed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clarify existing regulations regarding milk labeling by September 2018. A single federal guideline would be markedly better than varying state requirements, especially for the many North Carolina companies that manufacture and sell these products in multiple states. Rather than taking action and creating another complicated regulatory hurdle for businesses to navigate, we urge the General Assembly to wait for federal guidelines. The FDA must clarify these provisions as soon as possible—the uncertainty for manufacturers, sellers, and consumers is bad for business.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs