PA State House

The Pennsylvania Senate has taken the first step to implement a sweeping action plan for the state’s dairy industry.

The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved two bills on Tuesday based on ideas from the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission report, which was released in August.

One bill would loosen up Pennsylvania’s rules on milk dating, which are some of the most restrictive in the country.

The bill would allow milk bottlers to use a best-by date instead of a sell-by date.

And bottlers could petition the Department of Agriculture to use a best-by date greater than the 17 days permitted by current law.

“Consumers believe that a product with a later date code is a fresher product —even though all products basically lose freshness once you open the carton,” said Sen. Judith Schwank, a co-sponsor of the bill.

The other bill would allow the state Milk Marketing Board to coordinate with the Department of Revenue to directly collect a farmer premium on fluid milk.

Cooperatives currently distribute the premium to their members, which has prompted some farmers to wonder if they are getting their fair share.

The Dairy Future Commission report is the third study of the state’s largest ag sector to be released in four years.

It contains 54 recommendations to be completed in one, three or five years — some by the state government, others by the feds or industry groups.

The bills head to the full Senate with just seven scheduled session days left this year.

The milk premium bill has already been approved by the House. The best-by date bill has not yet been to that chamber.

Lancaster Farming