Is it milk or is it something else? And do consumers realize that milk is milk, and other stuff doesn’t come from an animal? That’s the nut of the debate here in North Carolina and in Washington D.C., as Carolina Journal Editor-in-Chief Rick Henderson explains:

The farm bill became law in late June over Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. It includes a provision defining milk, for commercial labeling purposes, as “the lacteal secretion … obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy hooved mammals.” Hooved mammals include, generally speaking, the family groups of cattle and sheep, camels, deer, and horses.

It bans “the sale of plant-based beverages mislabeled as milk,” including beverages made from soybeans, almonds, or coconuts (my emphasis). For example, Blue Diamond Growers’ Almond Breeze would have to be labeled “almond beverage” rather than “almond milk.” DanoneWave couldn’t market its Silk beverage as “soy milk.” It would become “soy beverage.”

This is yet another example of lawmakers using the coercive power of government to protect a politically powerful — though important — industry by planting irrational fears that greedy businesses are deceiving consumers. It’s protectionism based on an argument that individual North Carolinians are too dumb to know what they’re buying.

Read North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler’s news release on the milk debate here.