Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Dairy Co-Ops Encouraged by Senate's Stand on Use of Cheese Names

Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Dairy Co-Ops Encouraged by Senate's Stand on Use of Cheese Names

Article excerpt

While some see the potential for co-ops and other producer groups to benefit from establishing regional identities for their products (see page 20), there is also concern in the U.S. dairy industry and other commodity sectors regarding the European Union's moves to try to limit use of some place-based product names. Many cheese names originally were derived from European places where they were first made, but which have long since (sometimes over hundreds of years) taken on "generic" food-class meanings.

So the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF)--which represents the majority of U.S. dairy co-ops on legislative and legal issues--expressed its support when a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate urged the rejecting of European Union efforts to restrict the use of common food names, including many well-known cheeses.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, more than 50 U.S. senators urged the U.S. government to "fight back against EU efforts to restrict how U.S. companies market cheese and other foods," according to NMPF. "Under the guise of protecting European geographical indications (GIs), the EU has been using free trade agreements to prevent cheese makers in the United States and around the world from using common food names, such as parmesan, feta, havarti, muenster and others."

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) joined NMPF in applauding the Senate's strong statement in support of the U.S. dairy industry, as it comes at a critical time in the development of a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU.

The letter, coauthored by Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, expressed opposition to the EU's gratuitous use of GIs as a protectionist measure and condemned the resulting barriers to trade that are growing in key U. …

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