The “Skim Milk” Mentality on the First Amendment


Yeah, you’re probably scratching your head, aren’t you? Despite the ambiguity of the title of this op-ed, the comments you are about to read throughout are listed in an effort to illustrate the damaging state of the First Amendment.

A few days ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit concluded in one of the most obscure federal lawsuits in recent years that government regulators in the State of Florida violated the first amendment rights of an all-natural dairy producer in a rural part of the state. Specifically, the dairy is known as Ocheesee Creamery and the lawsuit was over a rift between the company and the state over the simple identification of “skim milk” on dairy products.

For the sake of brevity, I will truncate the details of the 5-year battle between the creamery and the state’s regulators in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You need these details to understand the mentality component of this.

In 2012, the state passed regulatory guidance on mandating the all-natural dairy producer to fortify their skim milk products with artificial vitamin A enhancers or be labeled as imitation milk. Despite the fact that the milk is all-natural skim milk, the company’s refusal to follow through resulted in the state barring the sale of the products for a time to taking the regulators to federal court.

After a loss in a lower district court, the 11th Circuit justified Ocheesee’s right to defy the regulators to protect their First Amendment rights regarding commercial communications of their skim milk products. Simply, this placed the owners of the three-person-employee small business in a precarious situation with various outcomes. One outcome would result in loss of sales if the company is placed in a situation to claim the milk is imitation milk product, per the state regulation. Other outcomes included a divestment from the business of selling skim milk which would cost the business a large chunk of their revenue.

Well, what do you do? The 11th Circuit, at least, kicked the case back to a lower district court, essentially concluding that even if it comes to commercial speech and proper distribution of information to the public, the government shouldn’t have the ability to step all over said rights.

Get my “mentality” claim now? More and more, First Amendment rights have been trampled on in various capacities. Whether or not it is a Muslim baker exercising the right of faith not to serve a homosexual couple or a liberal protester on a college campus peacefully gathering, speech is questioned, threatened, and oppressed.

Considering the college campus as the next “case-study,” First Amendment rights for a conservative and liberal student are just as important of the rights of a dairy producer. In fact, the only difference between an individual’s free speech and a company’s corporate free speech is the context and scale. Nevertheless, the recent free speech rows on college campuses across the United States need to serve as the primordial sample of what college students, most of whom will be entering the skilled workforce this May, have been indoctrinated to believing (i.e. a fostered environment, etc.).

More or less, many state-funded, private universities offer nothing to the substantive development required for a fruitful college education. Taxpayer funded universities merely serve as environments to eliminate a marketplace of ideas for a statist controlled narrative consuming academia.

Freedom of conscience is at risk, still, in the verticals of healthcare. As our country remains divided on major health care reform policies, like the proposals competing to replace the Affordable Care Act, we need to see major reforms granting people the ability to choose.

Given the cryptic nature of the term, “choose,” I merely contend that people need to be given the First Amendment right of association when it comes to their health care, in addition to the respect of one’s religious notions on specific health care options that they don’t agree with.

When a government starts forcing a cookie-cutter approach to how people receive adequate and affordable health care, costs not only go up but rights are ultimately removed. Usually, the end result is a series of unfortunate events that take years to fix.

However, if the American people continue to take the “skim milk” of the government, all competition is lost. Yeah, you can argue that this is an overstatement, of which it slightly is; yet, when major control of personal rights is taken from the people by the government, nothing good becomes of it. That is the message I wish to communicate.

Michael McGrady is the executive director of McGrady Policy Research. His work has been featured, republished and/or cited by media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post, The New York Post, The Daily Caller, Human Events, The Hill, and many others.

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