Milk Wars? Nope, Just More Manufactured Outrage Instead of Actual Work.

Cartons of milk for school lunches

(Image via Shutterstock)

By Pat Kreitlow

June 8, 2023

It’s coming from the same politicians and right-wing media figures who were up in arms about “woke” M&M’s and claimed the government was coming for your gas stoves and banning hamburgers.

To hear it from some circles, you would think an alleged government ban on chocolate milk in schools is on the way. It’s not, but the latest manufactured controversy could put in jeopardy a bipartisan Farm Bill with a big Wisconsin impact. Here’s what you need to know.

The Biden administration is trying to protect the health of children by reducing the amount of sugar added to milk. That has some right wing media figures and politicians fear-mongering about school milk in much the same way they claimed the government is coming for your gas stoves. (It isn’t.) They claimed the government was going to ban hamburgers. (It’s not.) They claimed green M&M’s candy and Bud Light beer are too “woke,” (without being able to define what woke means) and that Starbucks hates Christmas because of the designs on their holiday season cups (don’t get me started). 

It’s silly. It’s exhausting. It’s also a form of distraction so that the “outraged” politicians can’t be pressed on why they’ve done nothing about school shootings, attacks on democracy, and a broken profit-based healthcare system.

Childhood obesity is a real problem in this country, not one of those concocted crises. 

But it’s always Silly Season in some political circles, and that’s why US Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) has written a bill requiring all schools to offer flavored milk. Yes, the same Tom Tiffany who normally says government shouldn’t be writing so many requirements.

Here’s the thing: Dozens of milk processors are already pledging to back off on the sugar in their flavored milk—a beverage loaded with nutrients and essential to growing bodies. So the flavored milk will still be around, minus some extra calories. 

But by cranking up the outrage machine, Republicans are making it harder to pass a new Farm Bill, a massive package of legislation that’s rewritten every five years to ensure a stable, affordable food supply grown by farmers who deserve our support. It’s a very important bill that can only get done with cooperation between Democrats and Republicans—and rural and urban lawmakers. 

“You know, food is the least partisan thing I can think of and we need to treat it that way,” US Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth) said on UpNorthNews Radio. “Every member of Congress from Wisconsin is advocating to make sure that we have, you know, we’re allowing dairy in schools. Only Tom Tiffany can screw it up as much as he is because he’s trying to make it so partisan.”

The Farm Bill funds vital food support for vulnerable populations through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Meals on Wheels. Unfortunately, Republicans have grown increasingly hostile to these vital services—to the point where House Democrats have had to form a task force to combat GOP attacks, a panel that includes Pocan.

“We have to respect especially family farmers, but we’ve also got to realize that programs like SNAP are probably the number one program to keep kids out of poverty in this country,” Pocan said. 

Pocan worries a fictitious “milk war” could affect the Farm Bill’s passage in order to help some politicians get publicity for their new cause. 

“Things like milk aren’t as partisan as you think and yet he is seriously screwing up an issue that could affect a lot of people in Wisconsin because he wants to win a potential primary to maybe run for the U.S. Senate,” Pocan said of Tiffany, a potential contender to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year. 

“I hope he will focus on dairy as opposed to his derriere.”


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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