Ohio thinks we’re nuts because we don’t allow just anyone to sell us butter. But a federal judge says they don’t know dairy much.
Last week the judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by an Ohio dairy over a Wisconsin law requiring that all butter sold here be graded. It’s nothing new, Buckeyes objecting to being graded. It was Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones who infamously tweeted, “Why should we have to go to class if we came to play football, we ain’t come to play school.” Or attend English classes, apparently.
Minerva Dairy wanted to sell its artisanal butter without going through the grading process. U.S. District Judge James Peterson said, “No whey.” He ruled that a state law requiring butter to be graded doesn’t violate the dairy’s constitutional rights. Peterson wrote in his decision that the law “is rationally related to Wisconsin’s legitimate interest in helping its citizens make informed butter purchases.”
Consider yourself whipped, Ohio butter makers. And consider this payback for your Buckeyes beating our Badgers for the Big Ten football championship. Oh well, at least the team from America’s Dairyland beat the spread.
It’s no secret dairy products are, like football, integral to Wisconsin’s culture. The sale of colored margarine was banned here until the 1960s, as Wisconsin dairies wanted customers to know they weren’t getting the real thing. This prompted some turncoats to cross state lines and smuggle it in. These are the same types of people who started cheering for the Minnesota Vikings after they signed Brett Favre.
Last year, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin churned out a bill in the U.S. Senate designed to ensure consumers know when they’re buying dairy substitutes. Her goal was to crack down on companies that label their products as “milk,” “cheese,” and “yogurt” when they’re made of soy. Go ahead and pour soy milk on your breakfast cereal if you like. Just don’t pour it down our legs and tell us it’s a dairy product.
In the butter case, Minerva argued Wisconsin is protecting its own dairies by discouraging purchases of products from other states. Minerva had sold butter here until last February, when an anonymous complaint alerted state inspectors. Camp Randall Stadium isn’t the only venue where cheeseheads like to cultivate a home-field advantage.
The fly in the buttermilk is this: Because it’s located outside Wisconsin, Minerva can’t easily have its products graded by state inspectors. The company says it would have to spend $2,000 a day to have Wisconsin inspectors flown in, and only the Koch brothers have that kind of money to throw around.
Perhaps suspecting Wisconsin judges’ views on the dairy case might be homogenized, Minerva vowed to appeal Peterson’s ruling to the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. We aren’t scared. We think the dairy market should be open to competition, with the cream rising to the top. And we want to know what’s in our butter.
You can’t blame us for being touchy on this point: The feds require butter to be 100 percent pure, but allow margarine to contain certain levels of foreign materials, including rodent droppings. Our dairy farmers say margarine packages should feature labels reading, “Contains 1% rat turds.”
Is Wisconsin fighting this suit because it wants to protect consumers? Maybe. But is its primary interest sticking up for the dairy industry? You’d butter believe it.
So yes, Ohio, we are going to make your dairies play by the same rules as ours, in the process tilting the field in our favor. Cry foul all you want. We want payback for that Big Ten championship game.