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.

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.

Bipartisan Group of Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Common Name Protection in Upcoming Farm Bill

A coalition of American agricultural organizations hail introduction of legislation to proactively establish protections for foods and beverages using common terms in export markets.

ARLINGTON, VA – The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and allied organizations commend today’s introduction of the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act to promote the protection of common names in the 2023 Farm Bill. Led in the Senate by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Tina Smith (D-MN) and led in the House by Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Jim Costa (D-CA), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), the language would explicitly direct USDA Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to include the protection of commonly used terms like “parmesan”, “chateau” and “bologna” as a priority in international negotiations. This is the first farm bill effort on common names.

“The lack of strong action by previous administrations has allowed the European Union to misuse and abuse its geographical indications, hurting U.S. exporters in several markets,” said Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director of CCFN. “This new emphasis on protecting common names is a much-needed step in the right direction to ensure that our producers can sell their products in markets around the world.”

The proposed language would amend the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978 to define “common names” and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to coordinate with the U.S. Trade Representative to proactively defend the right to use common names for agricultural commodities or food products in international markets.

“For years, the European Union has been using illegitimate GIs to boost its own producers at the expense of others, putting a tremendous political priority on giving European companies a leg up over producers in the U.S. and other countries,” noted Castaneda. “It is time that our government takes a more proactive approach to tackling this challenge so that we can turn the tide to stand up for food and beverage producers relying on common names.”

  • 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 has been significant efforts from the private sector to defend common names, including a favorable U.S. Court of Appeals ruling and actions by congressional champions on Capitol Hill.

Court of Appeals Extends Huge Victory for Worldwide Producers of “Gruyere”

ARLINGTON, VA – Today, the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and a coalition of other dairy stakeholders prevailed in their ongoing battle to protect the right of producers to use generic names in the U.S. market.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the prior decisions of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in finding “gruyere” to be a generic term for a variety of cheese. The Fourth Circuit’s clear decision should put an end to the attempt by Swiss and French consortiums to expropriate a common food name through a U.S. certification mark registration.

The Fourth Circuit found that the evidence “is ‘so one-sided’ that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and Opposers must prevail as a matter of law.” The Court reasoned that the “the common usage of gruyere ‘establish[es] that when purchasers walk into retail stores and ask for [gruyere], they regularly mean’ a type of cheese, and not a cheese that was produced in the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France.” The Fourth Circuit concluded that “the Consortiums cannot overcome what the record makes clear: cheese consumers in the United States understand ‘GRUYERE’ to refer to a type of cheese, which renders the term generic.”

For over a decade, well-resourced European interests have attempted to confiscate common names to prevent non-European producers from using long-established generic terms, essentially monopolizing the ability to produce certain products for producers in limited and specific regions.

This decision reinforces that generic terms like “gruyere” refer to types of food, and a method of production regardless of where they are produced.

“The United States remains a bastion for the defense of consumers’ and producers’ property rights that have been trampled in Europe and many countries around the world,” said Jaime Castaneda, executive director for CCFN. “The court has sent a clear message that European attempts to stop American producers from using generic food names in the U.S. will be firmly rejected. It is a momentous victory for American consumers, farmers and food manufacturers.”

With support from USDEC, NMPF, CCFN member companies and other allies, CCFN committed the necessary resources to show the widespread use of gruyere in the U.S. marketplace, and craft the successful argument that non-European consumers and companies should retain their rights to consume produce and sell gruyere in the United States.

“This is an outstanding result for manufacturers and farmers here in the United States,” stated Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “We’re grateful that the Appeals Court agreed that nobody owns the exclusive right to use generic terms. This sets a terrific precedent for the right to use common food names in the United States. Now we need other countries to likewise stand up for what’s right and defend that use just as strongly.”

“Today’s announcement represents a significant win for America’s dairy farmers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “NMPF rejects blatant European attempts to unjustly limit competition from American companies and will continue to fight alongside our allies to oppose efforts to monopolize common name foods.”

CCFN and its members support the protection of legitimate geographical indications but will continue to fight against efforts to build unfair trade barriers. You can learn more with an informational video on CCFN found here.