Lots of rain has brought rapidly growing bright green grass to Sonoma Valley hills and meadows, dotted with locally raised happy cows, goats and sheep – including some Wooly Weeders carefully trimming the grass in vineyards and at Sonoma Raceway. As with humans, milk comes out of these female animals. Leveroni, Stornetta, Bettinelli, Mertens, and Mulas are among our local cattle-growing families.

Currently there’s a big semantic struggle brewing between the dairy industry that milks cows and producers of plant-based “milk.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) has introduced what she calls the ”Dairy Pride Act” that would make it illegal to call plant-based soy beans, nuts, coconut or other plant beverages “milk.” Her bill would also pertain to yogurt and cheese made with nut “milks.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Food and Drug Administration defines milk as “lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” The Dairy Pride Act expands that definition slightly to include “one or more hooved animals,” which apparently would include milk from sheep and goats.

The Chronicle also quotes author William Shurtleff, a national expert on all matters soy, from his book, “History of Soy and Other Non-Dairy Milks,” as saying, “Almond milk has been mentioned in literature since 1226, soy milk since around 1365.”

Because of concerns over chemicals and antibiotics that may have gone into cattle feed, many consumers have veered toward plant-based “milks” and, subsequently, stories of unhealthily raised soy beans from China have turned some people toward rice, almond, coconut and other alternative plant-based “milks” or beverages.

As it happens, some markets may be way out in front on the dairy/plant semantic conflict – Lucky in Sonoma sells “Sunnyside Farms Organic Vanilla Soy Beverage.”