rutters delivers milk labeling stance to pa legislators

Part of broader effort to communicate position against artificial growth hormones.

Ten Rutter’s representatives and hundreds of cows (the stuffed variety) descended upon Pennsylvania’s state capital Tuesday as part of the company’s efforts to retain the ability to tell consumers that its milk contains no artificial growth hormones.

The Department of Agriculture in October cited Rutter’s and 15 other dairies for having “false or misleading” labels that must be changed by Jan. 1. In Rutter’s case, the department in August approved the dairy’s use of labels that state, “No Artificial Growth Hormones,” before reversing itself in October.

In Harrisburg, the representatives from Rutter’s Dairy and Rutter’s Farm Stores presented a letter stating the companies’ position to each of the state’s 253 legislators, along with a copy of a New York Times column critical of the state’s recent milk labeling edict, and a toy cow bearing the Rutter’s logo.

At the end of the day, Todd Rutter, president of Rutter’s Dairy, and Scott Hartman, president of Rutter’s Farm Stores, were invited to meet with Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff and his senior staff.

The Rutter’s officials called the meeting “productive” and said they hope the exchange will lead to a common ground that will allow Rutter’s to continue with its current labeling, or similar labeling. The Rutter’s officials said they hope this helped lay the ground work for the department to begin working with dairy and food processors to help make Pennsylvania the leader in standardized, informative consumer food labeling.

“We’re adamant that we’re not mislabeling,” said Hartman, president of Rutter’s Farm Stores. “We are overwhelmed by all the positive letters we are receiving from not just our customers but concerned Pennsylvanians as they hear about the consumer right-to-know issue we are fighting.”

The Rutter’s officials said their message fell on sympathetic ears at the capitol. They held sit-down meetings with several state representatives and their staff liaisons including Diane Hain, executive director of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, and with Patricia Grimm, senior policy manager in the office of Gov. Ed Rendell.

This week’s visit is part of Rutter’s broader effort to communicate its labeling position, which also includes running full-page newspaper ads, handing out more than 100,000 information cards through Rutter’s Farm Stores, and posting content at www.rutters.com.

Besides the New York Times piece, recent editorials in the Central Penn Business Journal, York Dispatch and York Daily Record have criticized the Department of Agriculture’s position. Copies of the editorials can be found at www.rutters.com.

Family-owned and third generation-managed, Rutter’s Dairy began in 1921. It purchases milk from nearly 80 local farms. Rutter’s Farm Stores began in 1967 as a retail outlet for Rutter’s Dairy products and operates 51 stores all in central Pennsylvania.

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