(Host) Business leaders are concerned about proposed regulations that cover how the Vermont label can be used. Advocates say the new rules could be prohibitive and costly for Vermont companies.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) The attorney general has yet to issue a revised version of the rule which was proposed last winter. But in an e-mail his office has indicated it’s willing to craft a rule that’s more acceptable to businesses. The central question is, what should it mean when a business uses Vermont’s name on a label, or as part of its business name?
Much of the concern centers around products that carry the Vermont name on the label – products that can range from locally distributed item made with a single ingredient, like blueberry jam, to a nationally sold product with many ingredients, like salsa.
(Jamie Balliett) “When we went and did a name search just simply under the number of companies in Vermont that were utilizing the Vermont name, it was in the thousands.”
(Zind) Jamie Balliett is with the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation and the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. Balliett says there’s particular concern about a part of the proposed rule that calls on companies marketing Vermont made products to guarantee that a set percentage of the ingredients come from Vermont. He says for larger companies making products with many ingredients that’s a costly and complex requirement.
(Balliett) “Some companies have gone so far as to say, if I’m forced to adhere to these regulations, I would end up changing my name from the Vermont company to the New England company.”
(Zind) Balliett questions whether a labeling regulation is needed at all. He says in the past the state has successfully used Vermont’s consumer fraud law to stop businesses from using Vermont’s name in a misleading way.
But Vermont’s farm community supports the proposed labeling rule. Last spring the secretary of agriculture called for the proposal to be strengthened. And James Cleary of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont says the rule would help Vermont farmers and provide consumers with protections they don’t currently have.
(Cleary) “You can go to the store and get bacon from a company that says that it’s a Vermont product and those pigs were not raised here in Vermont. The meat was not processed here in Vermont. The consumers think they’re getting a Vermont product when, in reality, they’re not.”
(Zind) The Attorney General’s office has indicated that it might be willing to apply the labeling regulation only to Vermont agricultural products. Jamie Balliett says businesses see that as a step in the right direction, but he says there are still many questions about how the regulations could work effectively to help farmers without hurting other businesses.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.