Seventh Circuit Finds Wisconsin Butter Law Constitutional
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has upheld a Wisconsin law requiring butter sold within the state to bear a grade issued by a Wisconsin-licensed butter grader or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Minerva Dairy Inc. v. Harsdorf, No. 18-1520 (7th Cir., entered October 3, 2018). The Ohio dairy challenging the law alleged it violated the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Wisconsin.
The appeals court first found that the statute does not violate substantive due process or equal protection because the law is “rationally related to at least two conceivable state interests”—consumer protection and promotion of commerce. Turning to the dormant Commerce Clause allegation, the court found that the law does not have a discriminatory effect on interstate commerce. The dairy argued that requiring out-of-state companies to obtain a grade is “cost-prohibitive for artisanal butter makers,” but the court held that in-state and out-of-state dairies face the same costs associated with acquiring a grade. The costs required to create Wisconsin-specific labels also failed to persuade the court, which noted that “a similarly situated artisanal butter-maker in Wisconsin—i.e., one that sells interstate and wants to preserve its brand equity—would face exactly the same costs.” Unconvinced by the dairy’s arguments, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling upholding the statute.