Many campus movements aim to boycott certain products. In Wisconsin, a state representative has introduced legislation that would bar any University of Wisconsin campus or state agency acting on behalf of a campus from purchasing cheese or “prepared food product” containing cheese — unless all of the cheese is manufactured or processed in Wisconsin. An aide to State Rep. Jeff Smith, the sponsor, said that while no data are available, the lawmaker has confirmed that some Wisconsin campuses are serving out-of-state cheese. Student opinion appears to be divided — at least judging unscientifically from op-eds in The Badger Herald of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Bassey Etim, a senior, in a column called “Wisconsin cheese not just about pride; it affects the whole damn planet,” argues that buying out-of-state cheese reflects the waste of American society where food is shipped thousands of miles away while local products are overlooked. Etim also does cite the pride factor, writing that “when visiting Dairy State-funded universities, no one expects to eat Californian or that godforsaken New York cheese.” But Tim Williams, another senior, argues in “No matter how tasty, cheese won’t solve problems” that giving Wisconsin cheese producers a monopoly is inappropriate, and that the state and its university system have more serious needs than giving more of an edge to the home-state dairy industry. Williams offers this advice: “Wear the cheesehead with pride, Wisconsin — just as long as there’s a brain underneath.”
How might we count the ways in which this proposal might be unconstitutional, contrary to treaty obligations, otherwise illegal, or just plain dumb?
Long time Wisconsinites might recall prior state legislation, no longer in effect, forbidding oleomargarine sold in this State (in competition with pure Wisconsin butter) to be colored yellow. I am told there was a robust commerce in independently-sold yellow food coloring at the time.