Natural Foods Merchandiser

States in branding push for commodities

You?ve heard of Florida oranges and Idaho potatoes. Now get ready for Alaska seafood and South Dakota certified beef. More states are opting to brand their commodities for increased recognition in the agricultural marketplace, which could have positive effects for consumers and the environment.

Alaska passed a bill, expected to be quickly signed into law, which would require genetically modified fish in Alaska to be labeled.

Similarly, South Dakota has passed a law setting stringent criteria for beef to be labeled South Dakota Certified. The certified beef must be completely traceable and processed in-state. It must adhere to state-regulated feed standards and humane treatment principles.

Serious about keeping up the image of its beef, South Dakota created strict consequences for those who label beef as certified without meeting the standard—including charges of up to a Class 6 felony. ?The credibility of the state of South Dakota is on this,? said South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds? press secretary, Mark Johnston.

Supporters of both states? legislation say it creates a marketing advantage. But they also insist that it is in the consumers? best interest.

?It?s extremely important that people understand the foods they?re eating,? said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, who sponsored the Alaskan bill. Elton explained that the new bill would give consumers a bright line to distinguish what they are purchasing.

?A lot of states do this kind of branding,? said Elton. ?They give themselves a marketing ID.?

Though the Alaska and South Dakota branded commodities might not be available to retailers right away, marketing groups from both states will be working to inform retailers and consumers about the benefits of their respective states? commodity.

?We are a brand-conscious society,? said Johnston. ?So we?re trying to create a name that is recognizable.?

Craig Winters, president of The Campaign, a political nonprofit group for the labeling of genetically engineered food, sees these developments as a positive trend in the larger push toward higher standards.

?Local and state actions can have a major impact on the effort to pass federal legislation,? said Winters.

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