WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Retail floral marketers are voicing opposition to a bill in Congress that, they say, could lead to mandatory country-of-origin labels for individual cut flowers.
The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire in defense of that state's cut-flower industry, would revoke the current labeling exemption granted cut flowers and require country-of-origin labeling.
Florists' groups -- including the Floral Marketing Association, which in large part represents supermarket floral operators -- are protesting that the legislation is unnecessary and would increase costs.
However, representatives for Sen. Gregg said the bill is needed to differentiate domestic growers' products from imported flowers that may be of inferior quality.
It's still undecided whether the bill would require labels on each flower stem, a Gregg spokeswoman said. Stickers and signs are being considered as options.
"This legislation would also provide our domestic growers, who enjoy advantages of proximity to the market and the controlled environment of the greenhouse, a valuable means of distinguishing their fresh product from imported flowers that are several days old and potentially grown under lax pesticide laws," Gregg said.
Terry Humfeld, vice president of division programs at FMA, Newark, Del., said the quality argument for labeling flowers by country of origin is unsound.
"Why is it important to know whether flowers are imported or domestically grown?" he said. "Claiming that domestically grown flowers are fresher is not true. Gregg is trying to imply that offshore products are inferior in quality and that is not true. I can go into any store and find domestic product in worse shape than imports."
The Society of American Florists sent letters to members of the Senate Finance Committee and to Gregg in protest of the bill. The trade group said that "Attempts to label individual stems, or to require that labels be affixed once flowers have gone past the point of import into the sales chain, would be unenforceable, costly and of no realistic benefit to the American consumer."
Most flower imports are from Colombia, Ecuador and Holland. The rose business, meanwhile, is one of the largest industries in New Hampshire, earning about $150 million yearly in sales, said Steve Taylor, New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner.