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. It became apparent in dealing with the Federal Trade Commission and in conversation with the GMA officials that many of the problems which plague consumers in Massachusetts and influence the cost of foodstuffs are national in scope and origin.
To that extent Federal solutions are necessary. It is anticipated that there will be increased Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department activity in this domain. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture could conceivably become involved in enforcing a number of statutes over which it has statutory authority (See Exhibit 76).
The Commission, based upon its interaction with the Washington based operations, felt it necessary to restrict its own activity and recommendations to concerns which can be effectively and judiciously regulated by a single State. It was decided that particular attention should be given to statutes, regulations and administrative practices that affect the cost of foodstuffs in Massachusetts. This, of course, confines discussion for the most part to questions of marketing, retailing, price determination and disclosure information. And it was with these basic domains that the Legislative Commission concerned itself.
The Commission received a large number of bills from standing committees of the Legislature and isolated problems based upon testimony delivered in the public hearings. These two sources served as the basis for specific legislative recommendations which the Commission has made. The areas which it felt competent, well versed and able to cover included: the milk industry and the milk issues, supermarket pricing practices, pre-ticketing items, unit-pricing, nutritional information, competitive sales, and food cooperatives. The last item, because of its scope and the fact that substantial expense would be involved, was relegated for consideration in future legislative sessions.
In the following section will be found synopses of the concerns which the Commission decided to turn into proposed legislation. They represent the findings of the Commission. Prior to an examination of these subject areas, it should be noted that one member of the Commission, Barry Revach, significantly dissented from the substance of this report. As a former U.S. Justice Department attorney, Ravech felt that the report in tone and intention could be more broad ranging. To that end, he has drafted a minority report which follows the Commission findings.
By way of concluding comments, it should be noted that at the very least the Commission was an educational experience. It was educational to the degree that the food industry would not release information, not cooperate, and not provide any sort of base line data necessary for the kind of critical examination which the Commission set out to complete. The Commission is satisfied, however, that in domains where they have made recommendations and proposals, information and data is sufficient to support and justify them. It should also be pointed out that Attorney Ravech's comments are not inconsistent with the thinking and concerns expressed by the Commission. His report, however, is a minority view.
o See p. 275.
There is one final recommendation that will be stated here. Given the import and incredible wealth of information which the Commission uncovered in the course of its investigations, it is germane to recommend that the General Court establish a standing committee on food and food policies. Given that the farmers may turn to natural resources and agriculture for relief and a sympathetic ear, it is, by the same token, necessary that consumers of food have a similar legislative vehicle. Furthermore, the importance of food policy is going to increase and not decrease in the upcoming years and, perhaps for that reason alone, a standing committee would be appropriate.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND PROPOSED LEGISLATION
In the following section are brief background explanations of the major issues and topics which the Commission felt it could deal with, with the information and resources at hand. Each of the background statements describes the problems and difficulties which the Commission was able to isolate. In addition, the consequences of such problems is also discussed. Finally, in narrative form the Commission proposes solutions and ways in which the problems outlined earlier may be eliminated. Actual copies of the proposed legislation relating to these background notes may be found in the appendices.
1. MILK CONTROL COMMISSION
The Milk Control Commission was established more than thirtyfive years ago as a response to the Great Depression. It is an anachronism. It is an unnecessary bureaucratic appendage which serves no useful function but continues to operate, largely for its own benefit.
Since the Commission was created, the economic environment has been altered and a relatively complete system of regulating the milk industry has sprung, up:
Both the economic situation and Federal (and other State) regulatory programs are much more responsive to needs of the dairy farmer. Consequently, the Commission could easily be removed without damaging the industry, State government, or the consumer.
One of the basic functions of the Commission is to prohibit the competitive selling of milk. This is now accomplished by forbidding retail stores from selling milk "below cost”, with cost defined in an intricate and complex formula. Several inspectors now roam the State to ensure that food stores keep milk at cost or above. The consumer pays for this practice since stores cannot compete, as they see fit, on milk prices without running afoul of the State law. Additionally, the Commission can establish minimum prices of milk at the retail cost. This is a forbidding power when considering the fact that again, consumers would bear the brunt of such State action.
The Commission also audits the books of members of the milk industry and insures that producers receive the payment due them. These functions, it seems, are not provided by the State to any other industry, e.g., Underwood Products or Polaroid, and consequently there is no reason why the State should so serve the milk industry.
The Legislative Commission on Food is of the firm belief that the State has no role in establishing minimum or below cost prices and does not believe that in an era of tight money, joblessness and high prices, such protective action is either appropriate or necessary. In summary, the Milk Control Commission should be abolished and its
65-141 O - 76 - 14
functions should not surface elsewhere in the statute books. (See Exhibit 8.)?
The intent of the Commission's bill is severalfold. First, the Milk Regulation Board, a superfluous State agency, would be abolished. The attendant powers which now reside in the regulation board would be distributed between the Departments of Public Health and Food and Agriculture. A second consequence of the bill would be to institute discretionary reciprocity of milk inspection with health and sanitary considerations being the only reason for prohibiting milk shipments. A third consequence of the Commission's legislative proposal would be to make State law consistent with Federal law. Fourth, by following uniform Federal law and interstate agreements on milk and dairy inspection, passage of this act would permit the freer flow of Massachusetts, produced milk products to other States. Currently, because of statutory restrictions, certain States will not admit Massachusetts dairy products. A fifth result of the bill would be to clarify and refine existing statutes dealing with the regulation of the misk industry. This final objective is also met by the attendant legislation regarding the Milk Control Commission. (See Exhibit 11.) 8
2. NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
The Nutritional Information bill is designed to clarify and simplify the rule making powers of the Department of Public Health. Chapter 94, section 192 of the General Laws is a broad based statutory mandate authorizing the Department to adopt rules and regulations relating to the sale of food. Section 192 paints with broad strokes and is intended. to provide a watchdog agency guarding against adulteration or misbranding of the Commonwealth's food supply. At the present time this legislative mandate appears unclear due to a technical gap in the current statute.
Laws and regulations pertaining to the labeling of food products are jointly administered by the Commonwealth's Departments of Public Health and Agriculture. Each agency has taken strong steps: requiring truthful disclosures as to quality and content of all foods sold in the Commonwealth; regulations cover food to be sold for commercial or private use, animal or human consumption. See Massachusetts Department of Public Health Regulations, section B 1-29, and Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Marketing Regulations. However, problems have developed where the responsibility of the agencies intersect.
While Chapter 94 requires the Department of Public Health to: regulate "standards, tolerances, and definitions of purity or quality or identity for articles of food,” Chapter 128 requires the Department of Agriculture to collect and disseminate data as to food products marketed (or) stored ... in the Commonwealth.” The result is a blur of authority leaving both agencies uncertain as to the duties they.must carry out. Note for example the labeling requirements for commercial foodstuffs and pet foods issued by the Department of: Agriculture. The regulations require:
1. The net weight.
7 See p. 276.