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Bipartisan Senate Letter Calls for Strengthened Protections for Common Cheese Names

August 4, 2020

A letter sent last weeky 61 senators to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue marks a critical shift in the conversation surrounding U.S. trade policy and an important advancement to protect U.S. exports of common cheese names.

Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led this bipartisan letter urging the U.S. government to secure stronger safeguards in U.S. trade negotiations for common food and wine terms.

As the European Union has become increasingly aggressive in restricting export opportunities, U.S. trade policy will need to respond in kind to bolster NMPF’s work combating EU misuse of protections for valid geographical indications to close foreign markets to U.S. cheeses.

The letter requests that USTR and USDA “establish as a core U.S. policy objective in all trade-related discussions the goal of securing concrete market access assurances regarding specific common food names and wine grape varietal designations or traditional terms, including those of importance to cheese, meat, wine, and other food producers across the United States.

“Europe has demonstrated it will not yield in its efforts to erect trade barriers and limit fair competition from high-quality American-made food and wine products, including U.S. cheeses. A comprehensive long-term U.S. trade strategy is required to protect American farmers and food producers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

NMPF played a key role in supporting the work of the Consortium for Common Food Names in leading the effort to support this robust bipartisan message and helped work with CCFN and the U.S. Dairy Export Council to form a coalition representing a diverse range of farm and agricultural industries, garnering support from the North American Meat Institute, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Wine Institute and American Farm Bureau Federation.

NMPF staff also met with staff on the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Finance, leveraged support from state dairy associations and NMPF members, deployed outreach to the Hill from our government relations and trade policy teams, and distributed a digital fact sheet about this issue to Senate staff.