As the deadline passed for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to approve or veto legislation this session on Saturday — only one bill sat on the veto desk: changing the definition of milk.

House Bill 119, sponsored by Del. Barry Knight, R-Chesapeake, and co-patroned by Chris Runion, R-Rockingham, sought to limit the definition of milk as “the lacteal secretion of a healthy hooved mammal.”

The bill further outlined plans to ban all products misbranded as “milk,” which would have mandated that plant-based products including almond milk, soy milk and rice milk be re-branded. Human breast milk would have been an exception.

In the governor’s veto explanation, Northam said “eliminating the ability to label certain food products with the term ‘milk’ could hinder some businesses’ ability to thrive in Virginia.”

Northam added the bill “likely conflicts” with both the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia and each’s protection of commercial speech.

The bill originally passed the House on a 66-32 vote before moving to the Senate which voted to pass the bill 24-16.

Even without the veto, the law wouldn’t have been enacted unless 11 out of 14 other Southern states passed similar legislation.


Logan Bogert is a reporter for The News Virginian in Waynesboro, Virginia. She can be reached at or (540) 932-3562. Follow Logan on Twitter at @Logan_Bogert.

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