Last week, a NMPF delegation, including CEO Jim Mulhern and chairman Randy Mooney, held "extensive, robust discussions" on the issue of GIs with European Union (EU) policy makers in Belgium and dairy industry stakeholders in Germany and Ireland.
"The purpose of our visit has been to meet with EU policy makers and dairy industry officials to talk about the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and to make sure policy makers here understand the desire and ambition of the US dairy industry to promote and facilitate the trade of US dairy products worldwide," Mulhern, en route from Ornua HQ in Dublin to meet Glanbia bosses in Kilkenny, told DairyReporter.com.
Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, which began in July 2013, have been hindered by the issue of GIs.
The EU's Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) schemes - known collectively as GIs - recognise a product as originating in a particular region or locality where a "given quality, reputation or other characteristic" is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
US products that use food names with GI status, such as Feta, Gorgonzola, Edam and Asiago, cannot currently be sold in the EU, and European TTIP negotiators are demanding the US recognise and protect its of GIs - a request NMPF chairman, Mooney, said is "cluttering up the negotiations."
“Let’s start talking about the real issues and quit blocking us selling products we’re been selling for years,” he said.
To overcome this issue in TTIP talks, NMPF, which lobbies on behalf of US dairy producers and cooperatives, has called for the creation of "a framework for determination of legitimate GIs."
"One of the main points we've made is that legitimate GIs, as a concept, are something we support," said Mulhern.
"What we strongly object to is the effort of some Member States to take the legitimate concept of GIs and inappropriately extend it to generic food names," he said. "That's something we're keen to have understood."
"The approach we have long advocated is the compound name," he said.
"Parmigiano Reggiano is a true GI," said Mulhern, "but some Member States are saying Feta, Parmesan and Asiago are true in nature, and are trying to claim them as a product of a particular country."
“We want to see the day when Wisconsin Asiago is available to consumers in Europe,” said Mulhern. “But I think we’ve got a long way to go in these discussions.”
"Magnificent" Irish model
During their two day tour of Ireland, Mulhern and Mooney met with executives from Ornua, the Irish dairy cooperative previously known as the Irish Dairy Board.
Ornua completed its post EU milk quota preparations, which involved a series of significant processing investments, on March 31 when it officially adopted its new corporate identity.
“It was an opportunity to talk with Ornua as they move into a new branded positioning, have a chance to meet and understand their opportunities in the post-quota era as Ireland looks to increase production by 50% in the next few years,” said Mulhern.
Mooney, a Missouri dairy farmer and chairman of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), said lessons can be learnt from Ireland's post-quota preparations.
"The way the Irish dairy industry is now isn't something that's happened overnight," he said. "It was very fragmented."
"We need to come together as we approach the world. It's a magnificent model I wish we could replicate in the US."
"We need to somehow replicate the model, so we can go to the world with one voice," Mooney added.