Bill to define milk as animal product moooves through North Dakota House

The intent of the legislation is not to crack down on the labeling of plant-based beverages in North Dakota, according to bill sponsor Rep. Dawson Holle.

A store shelf with boxes labeled "not milk," "hemp milk," "goat milk" and "soy milk."
Alternative milk products are displayed at Tochi Products in downtown Fargo on Jan. 19, 2023.
David Samson / The Forum

BISMARCK — A majority of the North Dakota House got behind legislation to define milk as a mammal-derived product, but lawmakers looking to preserve lactose alternatives strayed from the herd.

The House voted 78-15 on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to approve House Bill 1255, which would clarify in state law that “milk” is a “lacteal secretion” obtained from a hoofed mammal. The proposal will now go to the Senate.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Dawson Holle, a Mandan Republican and dairy farmer, doesn’t draw the line at cows — secretions collected from goats, sheep, horses and even reindeer can also be considered milk. An amendment to the proposal added milk from llamas and camels to the definition.

The legislation intentionally leaves out drinks made from soy, oats, coconuts and almonds that are marketed to consumers as milk varieties. Holle mentioned at a hearing last month that there's an ongoing "war between dairy milk and soy milk."

Holle told his colleagues Wednesday the bill helps "send a message to our farmers that we support them and we want to keep dairy in North Dakota for generations to come.”


Dawson Holle, an 18-year-old candidate for the North Dakota House of Representatives, poses at an election party in Mandan on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. The Republican won his race handily later later in the evening.
Rep. Dawson Holle, R-Mandan, is pictured on the night of his election on Nov. 8, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

The intent of the bill is not to crack down on the labeling of plant-based beverages in North Dakota, Holle previously told Forum News Service. That kind of enforcement would likely have to come from the federal government.

Still, several lawmakers who voted against the bill Wednesday worried that cementing a strict legal definition of milk would diminish the availability of plant-based beverages in the state.

Rep. Larry Klemin, R-Bismarck, said he believes passing the legislation would "severely limit the ability of people like me who are lactose intolerant to get something to put on my cereal in the morning."

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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