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SD lawmakers endorse SAVE Act to protect exports

Dan Charles/NPR

Rep. Dusty Johnson and Sen. John Thune are backing a bipartisan bill called the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports Act, or SAVE Act, which aims to protect American exports to Europe.

The European Union has a quality policy that gives some products geographical indications. Certain products that have been granted a geographical indication can only be sold under their common name if they were produced in their region of origin.

For example, sparkling wine sold in the EU can only be called “champagne” if was made in a specific region of France. This policy applies the rule to other products, like feta cheese, which can only be called "feta" if it was produced in Greece or Cyprus.

The European Commission’s website says that geographical indications promote unique characteristics linked to the products’ geographical origin and help European producers market their products.

Johnson said this policy is unfair.

“Europe has a lot of pride, a lot of ownership over the names of the foods that were invented there, in some cases over a thousand years ago,” he said.

If passed, the SAVE Act would instruct the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. trade representatives to establish a list of common names and then negotiate with the EU to keep these names from having geographical indications. Congress would review a report about the negotiations every two years.

“Obviously, when you enter in into any international trade deal, you're not going to get everything you want, but in general the United States secures a vast majority of the things that we ask for in these international trade deals,” Johnson said. “And so, you know, instructing the U.S. trade representative to go get these wins for us makes it quite likely that we will get those wins.”

Marvin Post is a dairy farmer and the chair of South Dakota Dairy Producers. He said the EU’s geographical indications have not affected him yet, but they could in the future.

“We need to take a stand and be offensive, be on the offense, not just wait for something to happen and then try to reverse it,” he said.

Post added it is only fair for everyone to use common names.

“The SAVE Act is an attempt to continue to have exports on a level playing field,” he said.

Johnson said this act will ensure that South Dakota’s products can be sold under their common name worldwide.

“Over the course of the last 10 years, South Dakota has been one of the fastest growing dairy states in the country year after year,” he said. “We want to make sure that markets across the world are open to those South Dakota exports.”

Johnson expects this act to be passed into law due its bipartisan and bicameral support.

“On agricultural issues, bipartisanship is not rare,” Johnson said. “Both Democrats and Republicans eat and there are certainly Democrat and Republican farmers and ranchers. We have a tendency to work together on the ag committee. This is just one more example of that.”

Elizabeth is an intern with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.