Florida pays nearly $437,000 after losing skim milk battle

Published: Mar. 31, 2016 at 1:18 PM EDT
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By: Associated Press

October 23, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida is paying nearly $437,000 to cover the fees of attorneys who sued Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

A federal appeals court earlier this year sided with an all-natural dairy that fought the state's demand to label its skim milk "imitation" because vitamins aren't added to it.

Court records show a federal judge in September ordered Putnam's office to pay the attorneys who represented Ocheesee Creamery. State officials reported earlier this month that the money had been paid. The notice states Putnam's agency "concurs that complying with this order is in the best interest of the state."

The creamery is about 50 miles west of Tallahassee.

Since 2011 the state has paid more than $20 million to cover expenses and fees for lawyers who have sued the state.

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News

June 26, 2017

A North Florida dairy's battle to sell its all natural skim milk is over.

Ocheessee Creamery in Calhoun County put the skim milk on its shelves late last week.

It follows a five year court battle with the Florida Department of Agriculture over labeling.

The state had argued the milk must include Vitamin A in order to be sold as skim milk in Florida, but in March the federal courts sided with Ocheesee Creamery. Its decision said there was nothing misleading about the way it was labeling the pasteurized skim milk.

“Businesses have the right to tell the truth, and the government does not have the power to change the dictionary,” said attorney Justin Pearson. He works with the Institute for Justice and argued the case on behalf of Ocheesee Creamery.

A June 12th judgement entered in the case now allows Ocheesee to sell its all natural skim milk without the artificially injected vitamins.

“I have been waiting almost five years to start selling our all-natural skim milk and finally that time is here,” said the creamery's owner Mary Lou Wesselhoeft. “Our customers are always asking when we are going to start selling skim milk again and I am more than pleased to announce it can be found at our store and at our local farmer’s markets.”

By: Julie Montanaro

March 20, 2017

A federal appeals court issued a decision late Monday afternoon in a battle over skim milk.

The opinion says the State of Florida cannot stop Ocheesee Dairy in Calhoun County from labeling its all natural skim milk as skim milk.

The state argued unsuccessfully that the dairy has to inject vitamins A and D into the milk to label it and sell it as skim milk in Florida.

In its ruling, the appeals court said the dairy's use of skim milk was not unlawful or misleading and merits First Amendment protection.

"The record makes clear that numerous less burdensome alternatives existed and were discussed by the State and the Creamery during negotiations that would have involved additional disclosure without banning the term “skim milk,” the judges said.

“I simply want to tell the truth about what is in the products I sell, and I did not like that government wanted me to lie,” explained Mary Lou Wesselhoeft. “Today’s good news is proof that it is important to stand up for your rights when the government wants you to do something that is wrong.”

By: Associated Press

March 20, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- An all-natural diary fighting to call its skim milk "skim milk"-- against the wishes of the Florida Department of Agriculture-- has won a victory in federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel on Monday struck down a decision that allowed the state to ban the Ocheesee Creamery from labeling its skim milk as skim milk because it doesn't add vitamins to it. The state wanted the creamery to call it imitation skim milk.

While the state defines skim milk as skim milk with Vitamin A added, the appeals court in Jacksonville said most people think of skim milk as the dictionary defines it: milk with cream removed.

The court said the Panhandle creamery isn't deceiving people when by calling the product skim milk and sent the case back to the district court.

By: Julie Montanaro

January 27, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A battle over skim milk has now spilled into the federal appeals court.

Ocheesee Creamery making its case today to label its organic skim milk as "skim milk."

The state of Florida forbids it, saying it must also include Vitamins A and D to bear that label in the sunshine state.

The dairy is about an hour west of Tallahassee.

It could be months before a decision is made.

By: Julie Montanaro

March 31, 2016

A federal judge rules against a family dairy in Calhoun County.

It's a dairy that's fighting the state of Florida for the right to sell its all natural skim milk.

The battle over labeling focused on the dairy's refusal to inject

Vitamin A.

The state hailed the ruling as a victory for consumers.

We got to Ocheesee Creamery just as workers were bottling half gallons of whole milk in old fashioned glass bottles.

It can't sell skim milk anymore.

The third generation dairy farm in Calhoun County got an ultimatum from the state in 2012 - either inject vitamin A - or label its skim milk "imitation" milk.

The dairy said that's misleading and decided to make a federal case out of it.

"You would think if they want truth in labeling, then that is the truth. It is skim milk at its purest form," said Ocheesee Creamery's Heather Falb.

A district court judge Wednesday sided with the state of Florida saying despite the dictionary definition of "skim milk" both the federal and state governments have a right to set nutritional standards for skim milk and consumers "expect it to have the same vitamin content as whole milk."

The ruling comes more than seven months after the case was argued in Tallahassee's federal court.

"We are pleased with the judge's ruling as this case has always been about ensuring consumers know the nutritional value of the products that they are buying and feeding to their families," said Florida Department of Agriculture Spokesperson Jenn Meale.

The jersey cows on this 160 acre farm are milked twice a day.

Right now the creamery dumps out as much as 400 gallons of skim milk a day because its forbidden to sell it "as is."

The Ocheesee Creamery and its attorney tell us they intend to appeal to a higher court.

"Hopefully that will turn out differently than this one did, but we'll have to wait and see," Falb said.

Ocheesee attorney Justin Pearson says the creamery will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

That appeal could take months. In the meantime, the dairy will continue to sell whole milk, butter, cream and ice cream.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News

March 31, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A judge agrees with the state of Florida that an all-natural creamery can't call its skim milk "skim milk."

The Ocheesee Creamery sued the state after it issued an order to call its product "imitation skim milk" because it doesn't add vitamins after cream is removed from whole milk. A federal Judge ruled in favor of the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, saying the creamery can't call it skim milk.

Adding vitamins to skim milk goes against the creamery's all-natural philosophy, and the owners say calling it imitation skim milk would confuse customers. Instead of complying with the state's order, the creamery is dumping thousands of gallons of skim milk down the drain.

The Institute for Justice is suing on behalf of the creamery and plans to appeal the decision.