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Ban on Labeling Plant-Based Beverages "Milk" Advances in Senate

A cow
(Photo: Ulrike Leone/Pixabay)

*VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story

A bill from the House of Delegates that would define milk as only something which comes from a hoofed mammal passed the Senate Finance Committee. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill would prohibit plant-based products such as almond or coconut milk from being branded as “milk.” Proponents of the change say it would benefit struggling dairy farmers.

“Farmers are really happy with it since we’re sending the signal that we’re paying attention to the largest industry in the state of Virginia,” said Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), who sponsored the bill. 

If the Senate passes the bill, it will head to the governor for a signature. For the bill to actually become law, 11 other southern states would also have to enact the same legislation by October of 2029. This “dairy compact” is meant to facilitate distribution by having several states be on the same page.

“It’s part of the legislation for many other states so I was just confirming my bill to Maryland, North Carolina, some of the rest of them,” Knight said.

Last year, nearly 75 farms shut down dairy operations in the Commonwealth according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports 469 Virginia farms withdrew their dairy permits the same year.  

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said farmers are struggling because of high labor costs and low prices, and because fewer people are drinking milk. 

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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