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Berlin farmer testifies before congressional subcommittee

Berlin farmer testifies before congressional subcommittee

A Berlin-area farmer testified before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship about issues facing the dairy industry.

Glenn Stoltzfus was invited by U.S. Rep. John Joyce to testify during Tuesday’s hearing. He is the first constituent witness Joyce invited to Washington.

Joyce has made issues facing farmers a priority for his freshman term. Earlier this year the Republican lawmaker and New York Democrat Anthony Brindisi sent a letter encouraging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner not to allow producers of plant-based products to label those products as milk.

He also is co-sponsoring the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019 to allow whole milk to be offered in public schools again.

The bill was introduced in the House in January.

“My concern, and what I hear from the dairy farmers, is that we have lost a generation of milk drinkers by allowing skim milk to be substituted,” Joyce testified. “As a physician, as a parent, I understand that the nutritional values of milk can be carried in the small amount of fat that is in milk, that the vitamins A, E, D and K are in that very small amount of fat that is in whole milk. That is needed for brain development, it’s needed for muscle development, it is needed in the children in the public schools.”

Stoltzfus said Wednesday that getting whole milk back in schools is a top priority for him.

“I think that would make the biggest difference,” he said.

Most schools offer skim milk and 1 percent milk. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act changed school lunch standards as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. Among other changes, the law mandated that flavored milk must be fat-free. New rules are now in place that allow for low-fat chocolate milk.

“It doesn’t taste good and when you take away that flavor — you create habits when you are very young and as you age you tend not to change those habits,” Stoltzfus testified Tuesday. “Yes, we’ve lost a generation of folks that used to drink fluid milk. I think it’s nature’s most perfect beverage. I definitely agree with you, getting whole milk back into schools would be a tremendous advantage to us as dairy farmers.”

Stoltzfus also testified that another problem facing dairy farmers is the large percentage of juices, including nut juices, being labeled as “milk.”

“I believe that there is actually a law or a rule that in order to be labeled as milk that it has to come from a lactating animal, and it just is one that has not been enforced and we certainly would appreciate that being enforced,” he testified. “And I think it would distinguish a difference between milk, which comes from a lactating animal, and those products or those drinks that do not.”

Stoltzfus said he was honored to be asked to testify before Congress.

“It’s nice to know Congress is listening,” he said.

According to Joyce, nearly 20 percent of Pennsylvania’s dairy farms and more than a quarter of the state’s milk cows exist in the counties that make up the 13th Congressional District.

“Given how important the dairy industry is in Pennsylvania’s 13th District, I have made it my mission to do everything in my power since taking office to assist our dairy farmers,” Joyce said Wednesday.

“Initiatives such as bringing whole milk back into public schools and cracking down on plant-based milk imitators are critical and I am confident that Mr. Stoltzfus’ advocacy and the continued support of all PA-13 dairy farmers will benefit these causes.”

Stoltzfus and his three brothers, Donald, Dwight and Dwayne, operate a 700-cow dairy farm. The family also farms around 1,700 acres, growing corn, soybeans, alfalfa and grass hay. He serves on the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s board of directors and chairs the bureau’s Dairy Committee.

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