USTR Report Emphasizes Importance of Preserving Common Food Names

NMPF’s efforts to protect the rights of dairy producers to use common names such as parmesan or feta were supported by the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office in its April 26 report on international challenges to intellectual property rights.

In its annual Special 301 Intellectual Property Report, USTR highlighted several policy concerns that NMPF and USDEC raised in joint comments filed on Jan. 30, as well as in a separate filing by the Consortium for Common Names (CCFN), which NMPF’s trade policy team staffs.

The report describes in detail the European Union’s ongoing campaign to abuse and misuse geographical indication (GI) rules to confiscate generic food and beverage terms and prevent U.S. producers from selling certain common name foods in specific markets:

The EU GI system and strategy “adversely impact access for U.S. and other producers in the EU market and other markets by granting protection to terms that are considered in those markets to be the common name for products,” the report stated.  “The EU has granted GI protection to thousands of terms that now only certain EU producers can use in the EU market, and many of these producers then block the use of any term that even ‘evokes’ a GI.

“As part of its trade agreement negotiations, the EU pressures trading partners to prevent any producer, except from those in certain EU regions, from using certain product names, such as fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, asiago, or feta. This is despite the fact that these terms are the common names for products produced in countries around the world.”

NMPF will continue to engage USTR and the rest of the administration to turn these concerns into concrete actions. The U.S. government has a full suite of tools at its disposal, including existing free trade agreements and upcoming trade negotiations, to establish firm and lasting market access protections with U.S. trading partners around the world.

NMPF Touts Dairy’s Sustainability Story to Head Off Trade Problems

NMPF executive vice president for policy development & strategy Jaime Castaneda highlighted U.S. dairy’s strong sustainability commitments in Brussels Dec. 5-7 while meeting with American and European agriculture stakeholders under the U.S.-EU Collaboration Platform on Agriculture, a position reinforced in U.S. meetings later in the month.

The collaboration, launched by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and European Union Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski in November 2021, created a new forum for representatives from both the United States and the European Union to better collaborate and address common issues affecting agriculture, in key part to head off future trade conflicts.

Castaneda participated in the conference’s first panel. Castaneda also met with the Directorate-General (DG) Office for Health and Food Safety while in Europe to discuss the EU’s changing dairy import certificate requirements and the importance of smoothly implementing any new requirements. Following the conference, Castaneda joined the DG Office of Agriculture’s Unit Head and Deputy Director for the Americas to discuss ongoing trade issues, including the EU’s continued abuse of geographical indications to monopolize common cheese names around the world.

On Dec. 15, Shawna Morris, NMPF’s senior vice president for trade policy, joined Castaneda and Nick Gardner, senior vice president for sustainability and multilateral affairs with the U.S. Dairy Export Council to present to approximately two dozen European embassy officials on the progress U.S. dairy sector has made on sustainability in the past 15 years. Morris underscored the importance of a trade-friendly, incentive-based approach to new policies the EU is exploring in this space. The presentation also highlighted the sector’s goals and strategies and reinforced U.S. dairy’s reputation as a global trailblazer on climate and sustainability in agriculture.

NMPF Works to Preserve Market Access to the European Union

After months of dedicated work by NMPF and USDEC, both organizations welcomed USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Nov. 22 announcement to add the new EU dairy certificates, as well as the associated transit versions of each dairy certificate, to its ATLAS system. AMS plans to begin issuing the new dairy certificates in early December.

The European Union has long sought to stymie market access for dairy imports through a litany of nontariff barriers, including complex certification requirements. The late 2020 announcement of new EU certificates for dairy products and composite products (i.e., processed foods containing both animal sourced ingredients) were yet another hurdle that had the potential to completely choke off U.S. access to that market. NMPF and USDEC adopted a multi-track approach to the issue:

  • Successfully working with the U.S. government and Congress to secure a compliance approach that did not impose onerous new burdens on dairy farmers and manufacturers as well an initial delay of the certificate implementation date; and
  • Ensuring that USDA was equipped with the authorization and tools necessary ensure that the certificates could be issued well ahead of the extended deadline to avoid shipping delay problems. These efforts helped ensure that the certificates could be implemented in a timely manner even as the U.S. government continues to work to resolve challenges in other product areas so that dairy trade to and through the European Union can continue uninterrupted.

NMPF Presses for Delay on New EU Certification Requirements

NMPF’s trade policy team, collaborating with the USDEC, continues to work with the Biden Administration and Congress to press for a delay in onerous European Union (EU) new certification requirements for dairy and composite products, as well as new flexibility from the EU on its overly prescriptive mandates for imports.

NMPF staff have met repeatedly with USDA, USTR and FDA officials to emphasize the issue’s urgency of the issue, outline key concerns and impacts of the EU certification scheme, and explore routes forward. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has engaged on the issue in June, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has been active in pressing the EU for relief as well.

To complement this effort, NMPF and USDEC worked with leading members of Congress to support a Congressional letter sent on June 14 to the EU Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis. The letter urged the EU to extend flexibility to these regulatory changes that are unduly prescriptive and ensure that U.S. dairy exports to the EU do not come to an abrupt stop. An additional Congressional spotlight was placed on the urgent need for resolution on June 24 when Sen. Thune (R-SD) emphasized the urgency of relief on the certification issue with Deputy USTR Nominee Jayme White during his confirmation hearing. White assured the Senate Finance Committee that he would prioritize resolution of the issue.

NMPF continues to insist that this and the wider set of challenges the U.S. dairy sector faces in shipping to the EU must be addressed more effectively.

“U.S. exporters continually have to chase new mandates by the European Union to retain our current access, even when there are no safety concerns with American dairy products,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF President and CEO. “Too often dairy trade with the EU is a one-way street. The EU’s frequent approach to import requirements is to mandate prescriptive procedures that U.S. dairy exporters need to make time-consuming changes to conform just to retain access to that market for our safe products. The products we export today are entirely safe; new EU mandates that would seek to force the U.S. to change our regulatory system match theirs would do nothing to enhance that.”

Members of Congress Seek Delay in European Union Action to Prevent Disruption of U.S. Dairy Exports

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) today thanked congressional leaders seeking to prevent trade disruptions of U.S. dairy exports to the European Union (EU). Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Jim Costa (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY) wrote to EU Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis, urging a delayed implementation of new EU certification requirements for imports of U.S. dairy and composite food products and greater recognition of the strength of the U.S. system in producing safe exports.

“On behalf of America’s dairy farmers, processors, and exporters, we thank Representatives Kind, Walorski, Costa and Katko for emphasizing to European leadership the need to prevent significant trade disruptions to U.S. dairy exports,” said Krysta Harden, USDEC President and CEO. “The U.S. government and American dairy industry have been making a reasonable request to delay implementation of the EU’s new certification requirements, which fail to recognize the safety of U.S. dairy products and the high level of animal health protections in our industry. If the EU wants to steer its trade relationship with the U.S. toward stronger ground, it should start by changing its plan to choke off access for dairy and other products later this summer.”

“We appreciate the bipartisanship support by key members of Congress writing to the EU Ambassador, calling for immediate action to delay implementation of new, unwarranted certification requirements for U.S. dairy and composite food products until U.S. and EU government officials negotiate a mutually agreeable solution,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF President and CEO. “U.S. dairy farmers and processors continually have to chase new mandates by the European Union to retain our current access, even when there are no safety concerns with American dairy products. This type of unwarranted red tape is exactly the type of nontariff trade barrier that drives a gaping dairy trade deficit between the U.S. and the EU.”

The European Commission published new certification requirements at the end of 2020 for a wide range of food products, including dairy, adding confusing and vague requirements that threaten to upend U.S. dairy exports to the EU.  Two sets of new requirements have posed concerns to the U.S. dairy industry: (1) revised import certificates for dairy products; and (2) new certification requirements for “composite products,” which are processed food products that contain ingredients of both animal and plant origin.