The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Milk Producers Federation, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the North America Meat Institute, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Wine Institute praised a bipartisan Senate letter sent July 30 to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The letter urges stronger international safeguards to protect U.S. exporters using common food and wine terms. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) led the effort, which resulted in support from a total of 61 Senators.

The letter requests that the U.S. government enhance common food name protections as a core policy objective in all trade-related discussions. This is a direct challenge to the European Union (EU) misuse of protections meant for valid geographical indications (GIs) to instead block American exports of common or generic food and wine terms such as Parmesan, feta, bologna or chateau, the groups said. These unjustified trade barriers harm American farmers, limit choices for consumers and put manufacturing jobs across an essential sector at risk.

Signers of the letter include several senators holding leadership positions on committees with jurisdiction over this issue, the groups said, notably the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. In addition, the letter also includes the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property.

“The United States has been fighting the EU’s unfair GI trade policies with one hand tied behind its back while the EU has been battling with its full force,” said Jaime Castaneda, executive director of CCFN. “This unbalanced approach has helped the EU in its efforts to block U.S. exports of products using common food and wine terms, causing serious harm to America’s farmers, ranchers, food manufacturers and exporters. We applaud Senators Thune, Stabenow, Tillis and Baldwin for leading this effort to meet the EU’s efforts to block American exports with an equal force to promote fair trade and ensure the free flow of products using all tools available to the U.S. government,”

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC, added: “We encourage USTR and USDA to immediately establish the explicit protection of common food names as a primary policy objective in all trade discussions. The overwhelming bipartisan support demonstrated by the U.S. Senate for this goal underscores the importance of breaking down these GI-related barriers and achieving greater export safeguards for U.S. cheeses and other common name products. By putting protections for common food and wine terms first, we will ensure that American-made products do not come in last.”