MADISON — The Wisconsin Department and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection should eliminate a requirement that farmers must sign an affidavit once per year if they do not use recombinant bovine somatotropin, the DATCP Board was told at a Dec. 21 meeting.
David Ward, director of government relations and dairy for Cooperative Network, said the requirement that producers file a notarized annual affidavit claiming their milk is rBST-free is not necessary and cumbersome for dairy farmers and processors. Cooperative Network is not proposing that the affidavit requirement be eliminated, Ward said, but he doesn’t believe it needs to be filed on an annual basis.
“We would like to see that yearly renewal requirement removed from the rule and just say that an affidavit must be in place,” Ward said. “The Legislature was silent on the duration of the affidavit when the statute was written,” so therefore the DATCP could eliminate the annual requirement without a change in the statute.
Ward said he was representing Cooperative Network “and other dairy-related cooperatives and organizations” in making the request.
RBST is a hormone produced by cows’ pituitary glands. Since the 1990s, the hormone has been synthesized using recombinant DNA technology and has been administered to cows to promote increased milk production. The product was first sold by Monsanto, but Monsanto sold the business in October 2008 to Eli Lilly Co. In recent years, the drug has fallen out of favor with consumers and farmers and many dairy cooperatives no longer accept milk from cows treated with rBST.
RBST is not allowed to be used in milk production in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, the European Union and Argentina.
Ward said since many dairy co-ops and processors now require 100 percent rBST-free milk, the requirement to obtain a signature every year adds cost and record-keeping challenges for the industry.
He said Wisconsin’s rule is “inconsistent with requirements in other states,” which is another reason the affidavit requirement is not necessary.
Ward said if the letter of the law is followed, dairy processors would have the “potential to lose a customer” if the affidavit is not filed on an annual basis.
Paul Bauer, chief executive officer of Ellsworth Creamery in Ellsworth and a DATCP Board member, said his dairy plant has dealt with the issue by making all of its field staff notaries so they can have dairy farmers sign the forms in the field.
He said the issue would “have to be researched” before a decision is made to change the rule at the state level.
“There are some Class 1 fluid buyers who may have a one-year stipulation as well,” Bauer said. “I’m not sure who all is requiring that.”
DATCP Board Chairwoman Miranda Leis, who works for Organic Valley in Cashton, said Organic Valley has “developed processes to deal with” the affidavit issue.
“We are collecting so much paperwork from producers anyway (regarding organic certification) that the (rBST affidavit) is just one more thing,” she said.
She said if Ward was bringing the issue to the attention of the board, “there must be more than one processor having a challenge with it.”
DATCP Board member Paul Palmby suggested that DATCP staff check into the issue and that a report be given to the board at its meeting on Feb. 27. DATCP Secretary Sheila Harsdorf said the item would be put on the agenda.