Article published by Melissa Howell, WCAX-TV reporter.
Made in Vermont is a term that some business owners used lightly. Now, discussions are underway to enforce standards for Vermont-based products. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture met with a European ambassador Wednesday to discuss what standards constitute a “Made in Vermont” product, and how those products measure up, globally.
Secretary Chuck Ross of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture said, “We in Vermont are actually building the community base agriculture where we are succeeding in creating quality products that compete in the global marketplace, but are raised local in our communities.”
To compete globally, Vermont products must first follow standards to assure they are unique to the state. Joao Vale De Almeida is the European ambassador to the United States. He said, “We need to create the conditions for these new products to prosper and for the producers to be able to find the right markets.”
In an effort to follow the European system of regulating certain products, like Champagne only coming from the region of Champagne, France, a product like Vermont maple syrup could only be made right here.
“We’re close on that and trying to make it a system where it’s clear that products that are made in Vermont can be advertised as such, be recognized as such and sold as such,” explained Ross.
Regulating out of state products bearing the “made in Vermont” label is another problem.
“There are over-arching federal issues that hint of our ability as a state regulator to enforce these standards outside of the state of Vermont,” said Ross.
As terminology explaining what makes a Vermont product is currently in the works, Amy Trubek from the University of Vermont’s Nutrition and Food Sciences Department says small business owners still have concerns.
“One thing that’s very striking when you interact with people in the EU who are part of the GI system is how much technical support there is for small-scale producers,” Trubek explained.
Trubek says Europe helps small businesses understand their business culturally and how to make it better. But similarities between Europe and the U.S., like customer demand, means there are hopes to soon ship overseas.
“Vermont is a good example of a state that invests in quality food,” said Vale De Almeida, “and we would like to create the expansion of trade across the Atlantic of all these products.”
As trade negotiations between the U.S. and Europe move forward, Vale De Almeida says they have launched a process that could lead to the creation of the biggest free trade area in the world. That means defining “made in Vermont” products would benefit small businesses here in Vermont.