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    Florida Ag Commissioner Urges Voluntary Country-of-Origin Labeling

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson is urging his fellow commissioners of agriculture to encourage their state's retailers to start identifying the country of origin now, rather than waiting until it becomes mandatory.

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is urging his fellow commissioners of agriculture to encourage their state's retailers to start identifying the country of origin now, rather than waiting until it becomes mandatory. Bronson recently presented results from a national survey suggesting that many consumers want to see the country of origin listed on fresh fruits and vegetables, and that some are willing to pay more for produce grown in the United States.

    "There has been some reluctance on the part of retailers to go to the trouble of providing country-of-origin information, but this survey should help provide assurance that consumers want to know where their food comes from," Bronson said.

    Under the 2002 Farm Act, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture must create guidelines for mandatory point-of-origin labeling no later than Sept. 30, 2004. Until then, compliance is voluntary and based on guidelines issued by the Secretary in 2002.

    The new survey was designed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and conducted by Mid-Florida Marketing and Research Inc. Telephone interviews gauged the shopping habits of 2,500 consumers in eight major cities: New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Tampa, Birmingham, Charlotte, and Cincinnati.

    According to the survey:

    -- If the country of origin was clearly identified on fruits and vegetables, 37 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay between 10 and 20 percent more for the same produce.

    -- More than two-thirds of consumers at least sometimes notice the country where fresh produce is grown. One-third notices the produce's country of origin "always" or "often."

    -- 56 percent of consumers think that produce grown in the United States is safer than imported produce.

    -- 41 percent rate U.S.-grown produce as being of higher quality than imported produce.

    -- If price and appearance were equal, 61 percent of consumers would select U.S.-grown produce.

    -- 62 percent would purchase U.S. produce if it had a logo or label identifying its country of origin.

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