Washington – The entire Connecticut congressional delegation has asked U.S. trade officials to oppose a provision in a new trade pact that would bar state cheese producers from labeling their products “Asiago” or “Feta.”
State dairy farmers and cheese producers are concerned a final Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, an agreement under discussion between the United States and European Union nations, would implement the EU’s requirement that food that does not come from a specific geographical area can’t be named after that area.
That means American cheese producers could not use the names “Feta” or “Asiago” or “Gorgonzola,” because their products are not produced in Greece or the Italian cities that gave their names to local cheeses.
In their Wednesday letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the lawmakers, led by Sen. Chris Murphy, wrote “while all TTIP parties share the laudable goal of reducing regulatory differences and tackling barriers to free trade, efforts within these talks by the EU to establish additional geographical indication protections for a variety of products including various dairy, wine and meat products risk flying directly in the face of this objective. “
As far as cheese goes, a lot is at stake.
“The economic impact on American dairy farmers and cheese producers of a trade deal that included expansive GI protections for cheeses would be great…$21 billion in U.S. cheese production already uses European-origin names,” the lawmakers said.
American wine makers are also concerned by the geographical indication provision, the lawmakers said. So is the meat sector’s representatives, who are concerned “GI provisions may evolve over time or be interpreted by export markets in ways that could limit the potential for U.S. products by restricting the use of commonly used meat names such as bologna or Black Forest ham.’