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Views and opinions: Lose of generic cheese names could cost billions if EU is successful

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) warns that the U.S. dairy industry and the U.S. economy could be hit with $9.5 billion to $20-billion in revenue losses if the European Union (EU) is successful in expanding restrictions on the use of generic terms like parmesan, asiago, feta and others.

That’s according to a new study conducted by Informa Agribusiness Consulting, commissioned by the CCFN and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The study provides timely information in light of U.S.-EU trade negotiations, according to the CCFN, and examines the potential impact the EU's aggressive geographical indications (GI) agenda would have if imposed on a broad variety of U.S. cheeses and markets.

The EU wants American cheese makers to stop using names such as parmesan, asiago, feta which refer to European regions where those cheeses originate. It would mean American cheese makers would have to think of another way to describe feta cheese.

 “Seizing the common names that U.S. marketers have used for generations would confuse and alienate both domestic and international consumers, leading to a dramatic drop in demand for U.S. cheese,” the CCFN argued. “Prices could fall 14 percent, and consumption of U.S.-produced cheeses could drop by 306 million to 814 million pounds in the first three years. “

In politics; Agriculture Secretary Perdue got an earful on behalf of hurting dairy farmers after meeting Feb. 27 with Arden Tewksbury, manager of the Progressive Agriculture organization before the House Agriculture Committee Meeting.

Tewksbury delivered a letter to Perdue prior to the meeting urging him to take immediate action because, according to Pro-Ag, the total loss to U.S. dairy farmers for each year for the last four years equals $12 billion and the loss each year to the rural economy is at least $60 billion.

 Pro-Ag called for holding national milk hearings for dairy farmers, to “give them an opportunity to illustrate how tough it is on our dairy farms.” The group also called for an emergency floor price of $20 per cwt. be placed under milk used to manufacture dairy products, and called for a new pricing formula that considers the dairy farmers’ cost of operation.

The Trump Administration drew praise this week from the U.S. dairy industry for its decision to terminate the preferential trade status granted to India due to its failure to provide “equitable and reasonable access to its market” and comply with other provisions of the statute, as required.

A joint press release from National Milk (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) stated that “By holding India accountable for its unjustified trade barriers, the industry says the U.S. trade representative is setting an important precedent on enforcement.

“India has denied market access to U.S. dairy products since 2003, despite receiving preferential access to the U.S. market under a special duty-free trade arrangement called the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Over those years India has cited a variety of shifting reasons as the basis for its illicit trade barriers, including unscientific restrictions on U.S. livestock feeding practices.”

“For 16 years India has enjoyed unilateral access to U.S. markets while flaunting their obligation to provide fair market access mandated under the GSP program, and harming American dairy farmers in the process,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO.



The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Lee Mielke may write to him in care of this publication.