Alan Bjerga: Hello and welcome to the Dairy Defined Podcast. Today, we look at an NMPF institution that you may not even know about because it’s not primarily directed toward NMPF members. But the Regulatory Register is a critical part of NMPF regulatory work because this quarterly publication tells our side of the story on important regulatory issues to many of the regulators who make decisions that directly affect dairy farmers. The register is written by our regulatory team, and today we’re joined by members of that team to discuss what’s coming up next and how we stay on top of what are admittedly sometimes slow moving developments. So with that, we have Senior Vice President for Regulatory Affairs and NMPF Chief Counsel, Clay Detlefsen. Clay, great to have you with us today.
Clay Detlefsen: Thank you. Nice to be here.
Alan Bjerga: Chief Science Officer, Jamie Jonker. Jamie, good to have you on again.
Jamie Jonker: Happy to be here, Alan
Alan Bjerga: And our director of regulatory affairs, Miquela Hanselman, who’s also with us.
Miquela Hanselman: Thanks for having me, Alan.
Alan Bjerga: Well, thank you all for being here. Jamie, I want to start with you. You have tenure on this team. I understand the Regulatory Register predates you, but tell us as much as you can as far as what you understand of the origin story and in more importantly, what this publication is meant to achieve.
Jamie Jonker: Yeah, Alan, in my 18 years, the Regulatory Register has always been part of the work that I have done, and it does predate me. I think it predates me by nearly an additional decade. And really how it came about from my understanding and the importance of it today is that many of our regulatory items are, as you indicated at the beginning, slow moving. And so it’s a recordation of things that are happening in that regulatory space and what National Milk is doing there. It’s important for us to get our side of the regulatory story out to the broader community, not only the dairy industry itself, but also the regulators at the federal and state level on the variety of issues that happen in the regulatory space that are important for the US dairy industry.
Alan Bjerga: I mean, it may come as a surprise when you think of all the information that’s out there that some of these regulators who are making important decisions for dairy just need some sort of compendium of what’s going on.
Jamie Jonker: It is a great way to keep track of the slow moving issues that are happening in the dairy regulatory space. Many regulators have their very narrow part of regulations that they deal with, and they don’t have the broader understanding about the larger regulatory platform that affects dairy farmers and dairy cooperatives. And this is a fantastic way to get that broader platform of regulatory issues to those regulators that may be only dealing with a small part of the dairy regulatory process.
Alan Bjerga: So pulling back to that bigger picture, Clay, what are some of the big issues this team is working on right now, and then how is that reflected in what gets told to folks at federal agencies?
Clay Detlefsen: There’s a lot of big issues that we’re working on, Alan, but I want to focus on one particular area and that’s food labeling. It’s really multifaceted. Earlier this year, we had the Food and Drug Administration propose a definition of what a healthy food was or constituted. And unfortunately for dairy, fat-free milk and fat-free yogurt unflavored would qualify, but not most of the other dairy products, we think that’s wrong.
FDA this fall is going to propose a front of pack labeling scheme, and they’re going to focus on things like saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, which we don’t think is going to be real good for dairy either. So we got to try and get all of this fixed. And part of trying to get things fixed is working on the dietary guidelines and trying to get the dietary guidelines to recognize that dairy is beneficial for a human diet at all fat levels. So we’re working that angle to try and influence some of the other areas. And then of course, to wrap up the other labeling issues, we’ve been fighting with the plant-based food manufacturers for many years as they try and usurp dairy’s halo and use dairy terminology in the marketing of their products.
So we had FDA issues some guidance earlier this year. We informed the Food and Drug Administration that that guidance was highly flawed and needed to be withdrawn. We’re going to be waiting for that decision probably for a year. And on the heels of that will come FDA’s plant-based guidance for all of the other foods. The one they issued in February is for milk only. And then of course, we’ve got to deal with synthetic food labeling. We’ve got one company out there right now that is taking one synthetically created whey protein, beta-lactoglobulin, mixing it in a concoction with a number of other icky ingredients, if you will, and trying to call that product milk. In particular, they’re trying to call it dairy-free animal milk. It’s absolutely crazy. So we’ve got to get the federal government to recognize the importance of having dairy in the diet and making sure that the imitators are not trying to steal our halo.
Alan Bjerga: You mentioned nutrition Clay. I know Miquela, that is a real expertise area for you. Could you just give a quick summary of some of the things we’re looking at in that area right now?
Miquela Hanselman: So I would say the big issue in nutrition right now, as Clay mentioned, is the dietary guidelines for Americans. So these get updated every five years, and we’re in the process of… well, I should say USDA and HHS are in the process of developing the 2025, 2030 dietary guidelines. So as you’ll see in this new register coming out on early November, we have an article on the oral comments we provided to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and then we talk about some of our big ticket issues when it comes to the dietary guidelines. Also in the nutrition space, we work on the school meal standards. And another big issue that’s come up recently is the WIC program and USDA proposing a rule that would decrease the amount of dairy that is provided in the WIC package. But that pretty much sums up the nutrition area.
Alan Bjerga: And our chief science officer, Jamie, what are some of your chief science challenges in the regulatory space?
Jamie Jonker: One thing that is really challenging is some of the back and forth when we have changes of administration and what that does in the regulatory sphere. A great example of that is the Waters of the United States, and starting back in the Obama administration with one proposal that was finalized, that was then kicked back and changed under the Trump administration, which was then changed again in the current administration under Biden. And in fact, the reasons that the Waters of the US needed to be update go back to Supreme Court cases dating back nearly four decades.
And we look at these slow moving processes, sometimes it’s like a slow moving train wreck. And when we have these changes in the political wind that aren’t necessarily making changes to regulations based upon scientific principles, it becomes very important for an organization like National Milk to continue to be involved in these processes over the long-term and through things like the publication of the Regulatory Register, continue to advocate for what is right and best for our membership and have those in the regulatory community understand our long-term principle positions on things like Waters of the United States.
Alan Bjerga: You made reference, Miquela, to an article coming up in the Regulatory Register. When’s the next one? And give us a little bit of a preview of what we might be able to read about.
Miquela Hanselman: The next reg register should be coming out mid-November. I’d say probably more towards early November in the next few weeks. We have a smattering of topics kind of as Clay and Jamie alluded to everything from the dietary guidelines article. There’s an article on the organic standards and how that kind of aligns with the FARM Animal Care program and how it doesn’t, and a wrap up of the World Dairy Summit, which just happened in Chicago, key points that happened there.
Alan Bjerga: And if someone wants to get this publication, how do they go about subscribing?
Miquela Hanselman: If you go to nmpf.org, there’s a nice little stay informed button at the top that you can click on and sign up for any of our publications. Of course, the Regulatory Register is going to be the first one you choose.
Alan Bjerga: So there’s lots of options there. And yes, we are highly recommending the Regulatory Register. That’s our topic on today’s Dairy Defined Podcast. Throwing this out to the group, this publication has been coming out for years, you ever get any feedback on it?
Jamie Jonker: Alan, every two years, we do an extra special edition of the Regulatory Register about the results of the national conference on interstate milk shipments and the upcoming changes that will happen to the pasteurized milk ordinance, the Grade A pasteurized milk ordinance. And that is the one where over the years I’ve received the most feedback. The regulatory community and the dairy industry that are involved in the NCIMS conference are highly engaged in the outcomes. And if we have something in our special addition of the Regulatory Register that might be a little different than what somebody thought happened at the conference, they will let us know. I think in my entire time, we haven’t had to change anything in those special editions of the Regulatory Register on the NCIMS conference outcomes, but that particular community highly engaged. They read our Regulatory Register NCIMS edition to better understand what happened during that week long process. Sometimes there’s several hundred different proposals and it’s hard to keep track of everything. And those have been very engaging, and I always get feedback whenever those come out.
Clay Detlefsen: In addition to that, we occasionally get feedback from our federal government partners because we have many of them that subscribe to the Regulatory Register, and it’s something we always have to be mindful of that we’ve got government people reading our publications. So we must at all times be diplomatic in touting our positions on things.
Alan Bjerga: That was Senior Vice President for Regulatory Affairs, Clay Detlefsen, NMPF Chief Science Officer, Jamie Jonker, and the recently and well deservedly promoted Director of Regulatory Affairs, Miquela Hanselman with us today talking about the upcoming Regulatory Register. And remember to get what we call affectionately, the reg reg, go to nmpf.org/subscribe or that button Miquela was talking about and select whatever you want to select. We do, however, reserve the right to reject applicants we judge to be of poor moral character. So keep that in mind when you visit the site. For more of the Dairy Defined Podcast, you can find and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, and Amazon Music under the podcast name Dairy Defined. Thanks, we’ll talk again soon.