Landmark Common Names Bill Included in House Farm Bill Introduction

ARLINGTON, VA – Last week the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Chair included the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act as a part of its farm bill reauthorization legislation. The first farm bill effort on common names, the SAVE Act would promote the protection of common food and beverage names – such as “parmesan”, “chateau” and “bologna.”

The Act is co-sponsored in the House by Representatives by Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-SD, Jim Costa D-CA, Michelle Fischbach, R-MN, and Jimmy Panetta, D-CA, and in the Senate by Sens. John Thune, R-SD, Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Tina Smith, D-MN.

“Over the past decade, the European Union has been allowed to aggressively misuse and abuse geographical indications to monopolize common name products across several key markets,” said Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director of the Consortium for Common Food Names. “The SAVE Act is an important step in the right direction to making sure that our producers can fairly compete in the global marketplace.”

Beyond the European market, the EU has forced countries around the world to disregard their intellectual property laws and existing commitments with the United States to impose protectionist geographical indication rules under the pretenses of free trade agreement negotiations. In many cases, these policies block U.S. and other producers from reaching important international markets.

“The SAVE Act will help support the current and future Administrations in taking action to protect common names, and in turn, the rights and commercial interests of domestic producers,” Castaneda stated. “The U.S. has the political and economic resources to reverse this trend, and we believe the SAVE Act is the beginning.”

Many agricultural producers in the United States and around the world depend on common food and beverage terms – such as parmesan, chateau, or bologna – to market and sell their products. Since 2009, the EU has used trade negotiations and intellectual property rules to confiscate common names for their own producers – essentially monopolizing certain products in specific markets. For American farmers and producers, this leads to lost opportunities overseas and expensive fights domestically, in addition to fewer choices for consumers. Recently, there have been significant efforts from the private sector to defend common names, including a favorable U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last year.

CCFN Statement on 2024 Farm Bill Overview

ARLINGTON, VA – CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda issued a statement on the Congressional Farm Bill summary rollout today:

“The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) views the farm bill as a vital opportunity to create a specific policy to address the increasing harm facing American food and beverage manufacturers in light of the European Union’s attempts to impose worldwide bans on commonly used terms – words such as parmesan, bologna, classic, kölsch beer and basmati rice.

This is a priority concern for U.S. exporters and CCFN is pleased to see the forward movement in that process as indicated by the proposals issued today by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow. CCFN is ready to work closely with both committees to advance a strong farm bill and ensure the inclusion of the type of robust protections for the use of common food and beverage terms in global markets that are laid out in the Safeguarding Value-Added Exports Act.”

USTR Special 301 Report Examines Trade Barriers Caused by Geographical Indications

ARLINGTON, VA – The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) expressed their support today for the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) prioritization of the protection of common names in this year’s Special 301 Report.

The annual report details the largest intellectual property challenges around the world, including the European Union’s exploitation of geographical indication rules to confiscate common names – such as “parmesan” or “feta” – and prevent non-EU producers from using those terms to market or sell their products in certain markets.

“The European Union’s abuse of geographical indications is purely an anti-competitive campaign to block producers and exporters in the United States and elsewhere from accessing key markets,” said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda. “We are thankful that USTR continues to recognize these efforts as a threat that needs to be addressed. Now, it’s time for the U.S. government to utilize its full suite of tools to secure the market access rights of common name producers.”

CCFN submitted comments to the agency in January, emphasizing the need for the U.S. government to become invested in this issue, and expounding on how producers on-the-ground are negatively impacted when the European Union confiscates common names. Castaneda then testified before USTR staff at a February hearing on the Special 301 process.

House GSP Bill Supports Fair Market Access for U.S. Dairy Farmers

ARLINGTON, VA – The U.S. Dairy Export Council, National Milk Producers Federation, and Consortium for Common Food Names commended this week’s House Ways and Means Committee markup of a bill that would renew the Generalized Systems of Preferences (GSP) trade program with new agriculture-specific eligibility criteria, giving U.S. dairy producers a fairer opportunity to sell their products in key markets. GSP has not been in effect since it expired at the end of 2020.

The GSP trade program helps developing countries use trade to grow their economies by eliminating U.S. duties for a wide range of products. GSP-eligible countries must meet certain conditions. Today’s bill will introduce new provisions for the agriculture industry, including requirements that beneficiary countries provide open and equitable market access to U.S. agriculture exports and protect the generic use of common food and beverage terms like “parmesan” and “feta.”

“The U.S. dairy community is grateful for these expanded criteria, which will enable America’s dairy farmers and producers to compete on a level playing field in these new and growing markets,” said Krysta Harden, USDEC president and CEO. “A special thank you to Representatives Adrian Smith, Jimmy Panetta, and Michelle Fischbach, who continue to be champions for the U.S. dairy industry. Now more than ever, our members count on exports to succeed, and we look forward to supporting this bill through to the finish line.”

“American dairy producers and cooperatives rely upon fair access to international markets,” said Gregg Doud, NMPF president and CEO. “We’re thankful for Representatives Smith, Panetta and Fischbach’s leadership on preserving market access for U.S. dairy exports and sending a message to competitors who try to create an unlevel playing field.”

As the European Union continues to try to monopolize common name foods and beverages by imposing overreaching geographical indication policies on countries worldwide, the new GSP eligibility requirements would provide a vital response on behalf of American cheesemakers.

“The European Union has expanded its protectionist and anti-competitive campaign to monopolize common name food and beverages well beyond its borders, to countries in every corner of the globe,” said Jaime Castaneda, CCFN executive director. “The U.S. government has the political and economic influence to fight back. We’re pleased to see that Congress is starting to utilize the tools at its disposal to secure producers’ common names rights.”

 

U.S. Cheesemakers Win Big at 2024 World Cheese Championships

ARLINGTON, VA – The World Championship Cheese Contest awarded U.S. cheesemakers with an impressive 84 Best in Class finishes in Madison, Wisconsin – a stellar result for the United States. A total of 25 countries participated in this year’s competition, including Italy, the Netherlands and France. The complete list of winning cheeses can be found here.

Billed as the world’s premier technical cheese, butter, and yoghurt competition, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association has hosted the biennial contest since 1957.

Among the impressive showing by American cheesemakers, Schuman Cheese’s Lake Country Dairy processors in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, won both Best of Class and Second Award in the parmesan division, beating out an Italian competitor, and won top billing for its Cello Artisan extra aged asiago, ahead of a Danish entry. Additionally, Lactalis Belmont from Belmont, Wisconsin won top brie over a French processor, and U.S. cheesemakers swept the Havarti category, beating out two Danish contestants. These results are especially notable due to the European Union’s ongoing campaign to confiscate these cheese terms as geographical indications that can only be used by European producers.

“While the EU would like to think that its producers own the exclusive right to make and sell parmesan, havarti, asiago and other types of cheeses, it’s clear that U.S. and other cheesemakers can match their quality, and then some,” said Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names. “Just like in 2017 in the United Kingdom when an American parmesan won out over all other parmesan entries, including every Parmigiano Reggiano contestant, this year’s World Cheese Awards showed the strength of U.S. cheeses when unleashed to compete on a level playing field. We’re thrilled to see American cheesemakers get the recognition that they deserve, and we look forward to continuing to fight for them and their rights to sell their award-winning cheeses all around the world.”

As part of that fight, CCFN, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation have championed and supported the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act, introduced last year to spur greater Administration-led action on common names. The SAVE Act has garnered broad industry and congressional support and is awaiting inclusion in the farm bill.

Longtime Common Names Advocate Jaime Castaneda Testifies Before Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

ARLINGTON, VA – Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) executive director Jaime Castaneda testified yesterday before U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) trade policy staff on the need for the U.S. government to proactively secure protections from trading partners that guarantee the right of producers to use common food and beverage names, such as “parmesan” or “feta.”

The public hearing complemented USTR’s annual Special 301 review, which aims to identify countries that are inadequately defending intellectual property (IP) rights. This review then informs USTR’s engagement on IP issues for the following year.

CCFN, with the support of its members and the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers, responded to the agency’s request for information in January, submitting comments that emphasized the need for the U.S. government on this issue, and reiterated how producers on-the-ground are negatively impacted when the European Union confiscates common names. Based on extensive research and feedback from membership, CCFN also detailed the specific markets that the Administration should prioritize work in to preserve export opportunities.

In his testimony today, Castaneda detailed how the European Union misuses geographical indications and why producers and exporters need the U.S. government to match the EU’s efforts on common names.

“The United States has unmatched economic and political influence – now is the time to use it,” said Castaneda during the hearing. “We applaud the Biden Administration for increasing the awareness with other countries to respect our agreements and their Intellectual Property rules. Yet, there is much more that can be done, and the U.S. government must intensify its support of U.S. farmers’ and manufacturers’ ability to compete fairly in foreign markets by securing firm and explicit commitments ensuring the future ability to use commonly used generic food and beverage terms that are being targeted by or at risk of EU monopolization efforts.”

As part of its mission to preserve the right to use generic food and beverage names, CCFN has championed the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act, introduced last year to spur greater Administration-led action on common names. The SAVE Act has garnered broad industry and congressional support and is awaiting inclusion in the farm bill.

Read CCFN’s full comments here.