August 18, 2017

Court refuses to halt Wisconsin's anti-competitive law on butter … for now

By Wen Fa Attorney

Minerva Dairy is an Ohio-based dairy that has sold its delicious artisanal butter to satisfied consumers in all 50 states. Recently, however, Wisconsin began enforcing a law designed to insulate in-state butter makers from competition. The law prevents out-of-state butter makers from selling their butter in Wisconsin, unless they go through the cost-prohibitive process of getting their butter graded, designing Wisconsin-specific labels, and developing distributor agreements for Wisconsin-graded butter. As a result, consumers in 49 states can buy Minerva butter; consumers in Wisconsin cannot.

Minerva Dairy, represented by PLF attorneys, asked a federal court to halt the Wisconsin butter law until the court can fully resolve the constitutional issues in the case. Today, the court refused to do so, depriving Wisconsin consumers of the opportunity to buy a delicious product that’s sold everywhere else. But there’s good news. Minerva Dairy will now have the chance to establish additional facts to support its argument that Wisconsin’s anti-competitive butter law is unconstitutional. So while the butter law remains on the books for now, it might not be there for much longer.

 

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Minerva Dairy v. Brancel

Minerva Dairy, and its President, Adam Mueller, are challenging a Wisconsin law that prevents butter makers from outside the state from selling their products in Wisconsin unless they go through an arduous and costly process of getting their butter “graded.” Grading has nothing to do with quality or safety; it is graded by taste, as determined by government bureaucrats. Only Wisconsin has this type of law; neither the federal government nor any other state requires grading. Because Minerva Dairy makes artisanal butter that has its own unique taste, it does not want to submit to Wisconsin grading. Representing Minerva, PLF filed a lawsuit challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause, Due Process, and Equal Protection.

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