Get irritated when you see those T-shirts and baseball caps with Made-in-Alaska logos, and then discover the made-in-China label tucked away discreetly?
Dave Schade, the state agriculture director, is fed up with Made-in-Alaska pirates. He’s now doing something about it.
The state Division of Agriculture is responsible for the Made in Alaska program and use of its popular logo design, which is trademark owned by the state. It is intended to help Alaska grower market local foods, Schade says. Its use with non-food retail products, like the T-shirts, is allowed under license the sales are meant to generate revenue, through fees, to benefit agricultural program and to benefit Alaska nonprofit farm groups.
Despite those good intentions, Schade said, there are unlicensed retailers abusing the program, using the logo and selling things not only made outside Alaska but outside U.S. Adding insult to injury, some of the products sold are of inferior quality. Alaska Grown is supposed to represent a seal of quality, Shade said.
In June the agriculture division began tightening things up with a new directive reinforcing the licensing requirement for non-food retailers as well as a fee structure. The new order wasn’t given a lot of publicity when it was issued, Schade said, but that will change.
Alaska food producers, who must also register to use the logo, will not be charged a fee, he said.
Initially, the division will undertake educational effort so retailers understand the registration and fee requirements, and Shade will give businesses, most of which are small and locally-owned, a grace period to sell out any existing inventory with the Alaska Grown logo, but made outside the U.S.
After that the licensing will be enforced even to the point of retailers showing a registration number when they display the logo in a store. The new fee will also be charged.
Shade doesn’t expect a lot of pushback from retail merchandisers.
“Obviously, people will be unhappy about paying for something they now get for free (use of the logo) but the cost isn’t much and most retailers will understand that’s basically to promote the program, which also benefits them,” he said.
A second phase of this is to find a way to ensure licensed retail products are made in America, and not imported.
This will have its challenges since it’s not easy to verify the country of manufacture. There may be ways to do it, however, such as some form of identification and verification of U.S. manufacture of products when the retailer is licensed.
Making this effort is important, however, because Alaska Grown is also a logo recognized by the federal government for “made in America” identification for Alaskan food exports.
Specialty Alaska food products now sold in export markets can use the logo in lieu of a “Made in America” sticker, and also benefit from federal export assistance programs which require identification as to domestic manufacture. Peony growers in Alaska, for example, can have a lot of their export marketing costs covered by the federal government.
One of the purposes of the Alaskan Grown label is also to assure consumers that the locally-grown products are of high quality. There are existing U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for most foods but not for many non-food products like cut flowers. As Alaska’s peony export industry grows standards will have to be developed. The success of peony growers will encourage new flower products, possibly tulips, Shade said.
As of June, products that qualify for use of the logo include:
• A vegetable or fruit of a quality that meets the established grade standards that meet the top grades for the item, and which is grown for at least 90 percent of its life cycle in Alaska
• a seed harvested from a product meeting at least one of requirements of under the June directive
• a processed feed product wirh at least 75 percent of its ingredients being Alaska Grown
• Livestock grown in the state for at least 51 percent of its life
• an egg produced from poultry, while the poultry is in the state
• a product such as honey, wax, comb or pollen produced while bees are in the state
• an animal fiber produced from Alaska Grown livestock’
• an imported live woody product grown outdoors in the state for a minimum of two years and bearing a handtag stating that the plant was not started in Alaska, and the location where the plant was acclimated
• a nursery or greenhouse plant, imported into the state as a rooted cutting and grown to a salable product with at least 50 percent of its production time being within the state
•.a plant, tree, grass or grain grown to a finished product in the state, or
• a byproduct of processed product with the principal ingredient meeting at least one of the Alaska Grown requirements
• a mariculture product or an aquaculture product grown in captivity and under positive control in Alaska