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Reprising Wisconsin’s Butter Wars

February 25, 2017

Former Wisconsin State Representative Lary Swoboda loved to tell me the story of the great margarine wars that took place in Wisconsin.  He would speak of people driving out of state to get a case of white margarine.  The margarine packages included little yellow dye packs that were added later.  I can not tell you how God-awful that sounded to me at the time–or now as I write this post.

I can only liken his telling of that event to those who live near Green Bay and hear a local speak of a football game from decades ago.  There is more to enjoy from the facial expression of the one telling the story than from the actual facts of what they want us to know from their venture backwards in time.

Today the margarine wars were referenced in a national newspaper and once again Wisconsin looks out of sorts with the modern times in which we live.  The Wall Street Journal placed this state’s fight with Ireland over butter on their editorial page Saturday and to be honest there is no way we come across looking reasonable.

We all know how unpopular President Trump has made himself in Mexico. But Wisconsin state regulators seem determined to outdo him by making themselves as unpopular in Ireland by banning state grocery stores from selling one of the Emerald Isle’s most popular (and tasty) products: Kerrygold butter.

Never mind that Wisconsinites have been buying Kerrygold for years with no problems. Or that it remains legal in the 49 other states. Badger State bureaucrats, trying to protect the state dairy industry, are suddenly enforcing a 1970 law that requires all butter sold in the state to go through a complicated evaluation by a state panel. This is the same state that once banned margarine because it was a competitive threat to local dairies.

Kerrygold is a premium butter made from the milk of free-roaming, grass-fed cows. But as a result of the ban, Kerrygold-loving Wisconsinites have been forced to make butter runs across the state border, bringing back suitcases stuffed with the import. In Ireland, meanwhile, the ban is leading to headlines such as this in the Irish Mirror: “Shopkeepers in Wisconsin could face JAIL if they sell Kerrygold butter.” 

News reports quote company officials as saying they are working with Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to bring Kerrygold in compliance with the law. That’s welcome news for consumers. But instead of looking for ways to make Kerrygold comply with a law that wasn’t even applied until recently, wouldn’t Wisconsin do better to accommodate itself to the global economy by taking a fresh look at laws that produce such ridiculous results?

Caffeinated Politics very much agrees.  Free markets allow for quality products from around the world to be enjoyed in our homes.  The world economy is rich in diversity of products and stodgy impractical rules designed only to protect a segment of the business community–in this case dairy farmers–does not meet the common-sense test.    After all no one can make a serious claim that Kerrygold butter is not of the same purity or their industry not committed to the same safety standards as our state’s industry.

Speaking to a friend online about this matter underscores why this is not a genuine threat to our dairy famers as the butter from Ireland would be about three times the cost of what most Wisconsinites find from their locally sourced product at a grocery store.   And I might add should there be a trend towards this European product then it perhaps means the public is saying with their dollars they wish to have the Wisconsin dairy industry produce a better tasting product.  That too is an outcome of free trade—and that too serves consumers.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2017 6:19 PM

    Amen, Solly.

  2. Solly permalink
    February 26, 2017 2:15 PM

    What would you expect from the Scott Wanker nanny state? Just like Wanker and Crazy Frank Lasee (Repugnant-Racine) “protect” Wisconsin from wind farms to pay off their realtor donors. Much better to make Wis. dependent on Koch Bros. dirty oil and coal and send money out of state for wind power, like MG&E is doing for a $107 million dollar wind farm in Iowa. They’re all for a free market unless they have a chance to skew it for political purposes.

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