Capitol Views: Senate getting real with grocery items

    Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee heard testimony Tuesday on legislation that could alter the labels attached to many of your favorite products at grocery stores. More specifically, the “Truth in Labeling of Agricultural Products Act” would require sellers to identify if an item, like cauliflower rice, is merely an imitation of another agricultural product.

    SB 152 by Senate Agriculture Chairman Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, wouldn’t place an added burden onto manufacturers and retailers, according to the author, but would instead help farmers compete with crafty marketing and aid consumers in purchasing the products they truly want. “This is not an attack on their product,” Thompson said. “This is to protect the industry.”

    While the chairman said that he doesn’t want to dissuade people from eating imitation foods, he does view the labeling issue a simple, common-sense idea about farmers and consumers. “I love cauliflower rice,” he said. “It’s good. But it’s not rice.”

    Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, another member of the committee, echoed the sentiment, saying, “It is important that the farmers have their products identified. If it is beef, say it is beef.”

    While the two discussed rice and beef at length during the hearing by senators and industry representatives, the bill would likewise cover pork, poultry, crawfish, shrimp and sugar products.

    Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain appeared at the hearing to support the measure, along with members of Louisiana Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association and USA Rice. Even though no opposition was present during the hearing, the committee decided to temporarily delay the final vote. Most members interviewed expect the measure to pass when the vote comes. “I mean, the truth is the truth,” Riser said.

    It’s worth noting that SB 152 is separate from another bill sponsored by Thompson, requiring sellers to drop the word “milk” from items such as almond, cashew and coconut milk. While the diary issue has attracted a lot of attention at the Capitol, the Delhi Democrat says the two bills aim to assist both farmers and consumers. “This is about a standard of honesty,” he said. “I don’t want to keep people from drinking almond milk or coconut milk, but I want them to know that it is not real milk.”  

    The Senate Agriculture Committee is set to reconvene later in the week when a final vote is expected to send the labeling bill to the full Senate floor.

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.

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