Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida pays $437,000 in dispute over skim milk

A federal appeals court sides with a dairy.
A federal judge ordered Adam Putnam's Department of Agriculture to pay $437,000 in legal fees to the Ocheesee Creamery after siding with the dairy.
A federal judge ordered Adam Putnam's Department of Agriculture to pay $437,000 in legal fees to the Ocheesee Creamery after siding with the dairy.
Published Oct. 23, 2017

No sense in crying over spilled milk, but what about $437,000 in legal fees?

Florida’s paying that amount to the attorneys of Ocheesee Creamery, which is about 50 miles west of Tallahassee. State officials under Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture had pushed to label the dairy’s skim milk as imitation, because vitamins aren’t added to it, according to the Associated Press.

The state defines skim milk as having Vitamin A. Ocheesee, an all-natural dairy that doesn’t add ingredients to natural products, objected.

Florida taxpayers have paid more than $20 million since 2011 to cover expenses for lawyers who have sued the state.

Here’s the AP story from today:

Florida is paying nearly $437,000 to cover the fees of attorneys who sued Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
A federal appeals court earlier this year sided with an all-natural dairy that fought the state’s demand to label its skim milk “imitation” because vitamins aren’t added to it.
Court records show a federal judge in September ordered Putnam’s office to pay the attorneys who represented Ocheesee Creamery. State officials reported earlier this month that the money had been paid. The notice states Putnam’s agency “concurs that complying with this order is in the best interest of the state.”
The creamery is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Tallahassee.
Since 2011 the state has paid more than $20 million to cover expenses and fees for lawyers who have sued the state.

Here’s an AP story from March about the legal dispute:

A small, all-natural dairy isn’t being deceptive when it calls its skim milk “skim milk,” a federal appeals court has ruled — a victory for a Florida creamery that fought the state’s demand to label the product “imitation” because vitamins aren’t added to it.

The ruling overturns a decision last March when a federal judge sided with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which said the Ocheesee Creamery couldn’t label its skim milk “skim milk” because the state defines the product as skim milk with Vitamin A added. The state instead said that if the creamery wanted to sell the product, it should label it as “imitation” skim milk.

That didn’t sit well with a dairy whose whole philosophy is not to add ingredients to natural products. So instead of complying, the creamery has dumped thousands of gallons of skim milk down the drain rather than label it as an imitation milk product.

“The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term ‘skim milk’ was reasonable,” the three-judge, Jacksonville-based panel wrote in its ruling.

The court said the state disregarded far less restrictive and more precise ways of labeling the product, “for example, allowing skim milk to be called what it is and merely requiring a disclosure that it lacks vitamin A.”

The Institute for Justice is representing Ocheesee Creamery owner Mary Lou Wesselhoeft in the lawsuit against the state.

“All Mary Lou wants to do is sell skim milk that contains literally one ingredient — pasteurized skim milk — and label it as pasteurized skim milk,” Institute for Justice lawyer Justin Pearson said in a press release.

The creamery, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of the state capital, has offered to put on its label that it doesn’t add vitamins to the product, but the state hasn’t accepted the compromise. It was selling between 100 and 300 gallons (380 to 1,140 liters) of skim milk a week for $5 a gallon before the dispute. The product made up about 25 percent of its profits.

The dictionary definition of skim milk is simply milk with the cream removed. But the Department of Agriculture says under state and federal law, skim milk can’t be sold as skim milk unless vitamins in the milk fat are replaced so it has the same nutritional value as whole milk.

The department didn’t immediately return phone calls and an email seeking comment.


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement