Truth in labeling bill aims to help Louisiana dairy farmers

Updated: Apr. 9, 2019 at 7:06 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Truth in labeling is expected to become a potentially big issue this legislative session down in Baton Rouge. It all centers around the definition of milk.

The dairy industry is all but vanishing right before our eyes in Louisiana. There used to be well over a thousand dairies, but now there are fewer than 100 statewide.

Now, the milk industry is getting some help in the form of a bill filed for this year's legislative session that just got underway this week.

That bill would require non-dairy products like soy, almond or coconut milk from labeling themselves as milk.

State Senator Francis Thompson, a Democrat from Delhi in northeast Louisiana is the lawmaker who filed the bill.

"We're just saying let them be honest about the labeling on it."

According to dairy industry sources, of the remaining dairy farms in the state, only 2 can be found operating in north Louisiana, including one in our viewing area.

It's a dairy farm between Pleasant Hill to the north and Many to the south in Sabine Parish. And it's now been around 40 years.

As you might imagine there's support for the milk label idea from the owner of that dairy farm, Kristy Salley.

"I think that's the most awesome idea in the whole wide world."

Extremely low milk prices only exacerbate the financial challenges for any remaining dairy farmers who then must deal with dairy milk alternatives chipping away at their market.

"We have less than a hundred dairies in Louisiana today. That means if we don't protect our industry, we won't have an industry to protect."

Even if approved, Senator Thompson conceded that none of this would take effect until the USDA do its part by enforcing its current guidelines on milk labeling.

But Thompson concluded there's no timetable for when that could happen.

Companies selling those milk alternatives, like Danone North America, have said consumers already know the difference between dairy milk and plant-based choices and that further labeling standards are unnecessary.

Company spokesman Michael Neuwirth added that their labeling complies with federal law and federal courts have ruled in their favor multiple times.

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