As dairy is one of the fastest-growing industries in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Agriculture, it’s no surprise that milk was a topic of high interest at U.S Rep. Glenn Thompson’s listening session at the Farm Show on Saturday.
As the House Agriculture Committee vice chairman, Thompson, R-Howard Township, was joined at the Farm Show Complex by Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, and four other state representatives, including U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas.
The eight government officials listened and responded to various comments, questions and concerns of more than 50 people at the session. There were approximately 20 remarks made during the two-hour session.
School milk was brought up for discussion by several people. Some were advocating for regular chocolate milk and whole milk to be available as options, while Peterson added that milk should not be sold in a carton because it does not market milk in a positive way.
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“They need to get Coca-Cola in there to show them how to market this stuff. I’m serious because part of the problem is that they’re not making consumer-friendly products that look attractive. I think if we changed some of that we’d make a big difference on consumption,” Peterson said.
Though Thompson said the school lunch program is not handled by the agriculture committee, he told audience members he’d pass their comments onto the Education and the Workforce committee.
No food is nutritious if it’s not eaten.
Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township
“No food is nutritious if it’s not eaten. We see so much waste in our schools,” Thompson said. “Turn it back to the professionals who know the kids and will have the kids’ best interests at heart.”
Thompson said he was appreciative of what he heard and touted his voting record on school lunch regulations.
“Because of arbitrary regulations in 2010 in terms of the school nutrition bill, which I voted against those standards because I saw this coming. They took away fat; they only allow non-fat milk to be served at our schools. You lose flavor and milk-fat is where the flavor is,” Thompson said. “It was bad science. It was political correctness that caused that to happen.”
Making changes to those standards, Thompson said, could help a new generation to “fall back in love with milk,” and could serve as a market-solution to the issues facing dairy farmers.
Labeling practices were another area of concern to audience members. While soybean milk and almond milk are often referred to at milk, one person argued that those products should not be marketed as milk.
“I’ve never seen a soybean nurse its young. It’s not milk and it’s serious,” the man said.
Peterson said he and his colleagues are trying to push a bill through Congress that addresses those concerns.
“You’re right; soybeans are not milk. There are little things we can do to fix some of this stuff,” Peterson said.
Thompson agreed with a suggestion that advocated for a national hearing primarily comprised of dairy farmers, which would report to Congress.
While Thompson and his colleagues offered feedback on a majority of the remarks, they were unfamiliar with the issues caused by the spotted lanternfly. While predominantly located in Berks County, the lanternfly is an invasive species that can spread and threaten crops like grapes, peaches and timer trees.
“The intensity of the spotted lanternfly is a pretty scary thing,” Thompson said. “It was good to get an update on exactly the scope of that invasive species presence.”