Status (4/13/21): On 03/14/2019, the bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in the Senate. Unfortunately, the bill failed to pass and progress on it has since stalled.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) recently claimed triumph over labeling of plant-based milks and other dairy alternatives with the passage of the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending package, signed into law last Friday. Their “win” is in reference to a non-binding report attached to an earlier spending bill. Language in that report directs the Food and Drug Administration to establish standards of identity for dairy products. (The FDA already has standards of identity for dairy products, but never mind.)
What does this mean? The report language is not news at all given that it was first released last July, not in last week’s Omnibus Bill. Congressional committees often publish explanatory language to accompany legislation, which speaks to the Committee’s intent. Most importantly, report language is non-binding. (Learn more about report language here.) It is used to reflect the intent of Congress and can be used as a stepping stone to full legislation. In other words, the language that NMPF is celebrating has zero legal significance.
It’s unfortunate that the milk lobby has been deceiving the public by claiming “Congressional Spending Bill Includes DAIRY PRIDE Act Language in Victory for Milk Labeling Standards”. I have had to explain to a few reporters that report language is not the same as passing legislation and that our members are not impacted at all. It’s ironic that an organization claiming that PBFA member companies are deceiving consumers is itself engaged in its own form of deception. – Michele Simon