NMPF-Led Common Names Legislation Introduced in Congress

NMPF, working in collaboration with the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), spurred the May 17 introduction of the bipartisan Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act, a milestone in the organizations’ efforts to preserve common cheese names in export markets around the world.

Outlined and supported by NMPF, CCFN and USDEC, the SAVE Act would amend the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978 in two keys ways by:

  • Explicitly defining “common names” as a term ordinarily used for marketing a food product, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA);
  • Defining foreign restrictions of those common names as an unfair trade practice; and
  • Directing USDA to “coordinate with the U.S. Trade Representative to proactively defend the right to use common names for agricultural commodities or food products in their markets” through various negotiating tools.

The legislation calls for USDA and USTR to use bilateral, plurilateral, or multilateral agreements, memoranda of understanding, and other instruments to ensure that American dairy and other agricultural producers will be able to use the common names in food and beverage exports.

Led in the Senate by Sens. John Thune, R-SD, Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Tina Smith, D-MN, and in the House by Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-SD, Jim Costa, D-CA, Michelle Fischbach, R-MN, and Jimmy Panetta, D-CA,, NMPF plans to work with the bill’s leads to ensure the legislative text is captured in the Farm Bill. That would mark the first farm bill effort on common names.

Given the outsized impact that illegitimate geographical indications have on American cheesemakers, the SAVE Act signifies a much-needed development that would benefit the U.S. dairy industry should it become law. NMPF will continue to work with its allied organizations and supporting members to ensure passage of this important new tool.

Bipartisan Group of Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Common Name Protection in Upcoming Farm Bill

A coalition of American agricultural organizations hail introduction of legislation to proactively establish protections for foods and beverages using common terms in export markets.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and allied organizations commend today’s introduction of the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act to promote the protection of common names in the 2023 Farm Bill. Led in the Senate by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Tina Smith (D-MN) and led in the House by Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Jim Costa (D-CA), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), the language would explicitly direct USDA Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to include the protection of commonly used terms like “parmesan”, “chateau” and “bologna” as a priority in international negotiations. This is the first farm bill effort on common names.

“The lack of strong action by previous administrations has allowed the European Union to misuse and abuse its geographical indications, hurting U.S. exporters in several markets,” said Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director of CCFN. “This new emphasis on protecting common names is a much-needed step in the right direction to ensure that our producers can sell their products in markets around the world.”

The proposed language would amend the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978 to define “common names” and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to coordinate with the U.S. Trade Representative to proactively defend the right to use common names for agricultural commodities or food products in international markets.

“For years, the European Union has been using illegitimate GIs to boost its own producers at the expense of others, putting a tremendous political priority on giving European companies a leg up over producers in the U.S. and other countries,” noted Castaneda. “It is time that our government takes a more proactive approach to tackling this challenge so that we can turn the tide to stand up for food and beverage producers relying on common names.”

  • Many agricultural producers in the United States and around the world depend on common food and beverage terms – such as parmesan, chateau, or bologna – to market and sell their products.
  • Since 2009, the EU has used trade negotiations and intellectual property rules to confiscate common names for their own producers – essentially monopolizing certain products in specific markets.
  • For American farmers and producers, this leads to lost opportunities overseas and expensive fights domestically, in addition to fewer choices for consumers.
  • Recently, there has been significant efforts from the private sector to defend common names, including a favorable U.S. Court of Appeals ruling and actions by congressional champions on Capitol Hill.