Connecticut Lawmakers: Our Cheese Is As Good As Europe's

By:  Russell Blair
Hartford Courant

In a letter to federal officials, Connecticut's congressional delegation are touting the state's cheeses and railing against a practice that would restrict labeling of foodstuffs not from a specific town or region.

The European Union is calling for language in the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement that would prevent American farmers from labeling their products with names like "Asiago" (a region in Italy) or "Gorgonzola" (an Italian town) if they weren't produced there.

"Cheeses made in our home state of Connecticut are equally as good (as) those made in Europe; we would argue that in many cases they're even better," the delegation, led by Sen. Chris Murphy, wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vislack and Michael Froman, a White House official.

The naming restrictions could cost the U.S. cheese industry up to $4.2 billion a year, according to lawmakers.

"Unfairly restricting labels for cheeses like asiago just because it isn't made in Asiago, Italy, makes no sense," the lawmakers wrote. "Locally-produced cheese, dairy, and other products are in high demand, and international trade negotiations shouldn't be the reason why Connecticut farmers all of a sudden can't sell certain types of popular-well recognized products."

The letter was signed by Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty.