HARRISBURG – Today, the House voted out a package of bills, sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster), which would permit Pennsylvania schools to purchase and dispense whole and reduced-fat (2%) Pennsylvania milk for students, establish tax incentives to help Pennsylvania’s struggling dairy farmers, and ensure Pennsylvania farmers receive state- mandated premiums.
A federal regulation, adopted in the Obama administration, prohibited whole and reduced-fat milk in the schools under the assumption that it would reduce childhood obesity. Twelve years later, parents, farmers, educators, and students are looking for options to bring whole milk back into schools.
“This regulation has been detrimental to Pennsylvania school children and the state’s dairy industry,” said Lawrence. “The fat-free and skim milk varieties lack the flavor of whole milk and are therefore less appealing. In fact, a lot of the milk served up in the school lunch program ends up in the trash, depriving children of its health and nutritional benefits.”
Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams), chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, moved Lawrence’s legislation out of his committee last week. “The federal government has no business telling parents how or what to feed their children as long as they are healthy,” said Moul. “Rep. Lawrence’s bill corrects a wrong and I wholeheartedly support it.”
House Bill 2397
would permit school boards or other governing authorities of a school to purchase whole or reduced-fat Pennsylvania milk and make it available to Pennsylvania students. The bill would require the state secretary of Education to notify schools of the change and it would require the state attorney general to bring suit against the federal government or any other entity on behalf of a school to recover any funding withheld or revoked due to its action to allow whole and reduced-fat milk products in schools. Lawrence said the whole milk regulation is not good for business either.
“Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry and dairy is its largest segment. A decline in Pennsylvania milk consumption hurts our dairy farmers and the more than 52,000 jobs the dairy industry supports in this Commonwealth,” said Lawrence.
“When whole milk was taken out of schools, we lost a generation of milk drinkers,” said Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter), who co-sponsored House Bill 2397. “This action has had a very real impact on dairy farmers in my district and across the state, and has contributed to the loss of about 2,140 dairy farms in Pennsylvania since 2010. This legislation comes to the aid of our struggling dairy industry, and it is sorely needed.”
Another Lawrence bill – House Bill 223
– also aims to help farmers by establishing Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones (KODZ), which would provide tax incentives to locate new dairy processing plants in Pennsylvania and encourage new or additional processing capacity for Pennsylvania milk.
“Increasingly, people are drinking less milk while eating more yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, and the like,” Lawrence said. “Attracting milk processing plants to Pennsylvania would provide new and expanded markets for Pennsylvania milk and enhance opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers to ship milk-based products around the country and worldwide. My bill is structured to provide tax credit opportunities for both larger processers and small on-farm operations.”
Qualifying processing facilities would be required to create new jobs and use primarily Pennsylvania milk in exchange for tax relief similar to that offered other businesses relocating under the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program.
The House also passed Lawrence’s bill to help struggling dairy farmers be more competitive. House Bill 224
would enable the state Milk Marketing Board to ensure the Commonwealth’s dairy farmers receive their state-mandated milk premiums.
The bills now go to the state Senate for consideration.
Representative John Lawrence
Pennsylvania House of Representatives