Weights and Measures Makes Associations Opponents

July 4, 2004 - 14:39


ANLA and SAF


A joint task force convened by the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and the Society of American Florists (SAF) is studying existing regulations regarding consumer product labeling. The task force was convened following the call for increased enforcement of consumer product labeling laws by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) last year. Over the past four months, through research and meetings with regulatory policy officials, the task force has gained a clearer understanding of existing consumer product labeling laws and how they affect the way green industry firms label the container plants they sell at retail.


Commenting on the research, task force co-chair, Dave Fujino of Hines Horticulture, Irvine, Calif., stated, "It was interesting to discover that these consumer products labeling regulations have been in place for over 10 years. The industry has been out of compliance for years. Due to our success (we are now an $80 billion dollar industry) our industry is coming under heavier regulatory scrutiny."


Co-chair Mark DeJong of DeJong Greenhouses, Pella, Iowa, continued, "As we explored this issue, it became clear that this was a research and not a negotiation process. These regulations exist for all consumer product manufacturers from Coca-Cola to quilts. It's like the speed limit: We weren't explaining to regulators why we need to drive faster; we were learning how fast the law allows us to drive. We are studying these laws in order to provide the broader industry with the information they need to avoid regulatory action." The task force is having a number of discussions at summer trade shows and events to gather feedback on the impact of these long-standing regulations.


The task force has met several times now with representatives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to seek clarification on the practical application of these regulations. NIST is the national body responsible for setting consumer products labeling policy. These policies are adopted and enforced, at the state and local level by weights and measures departments. There are currently approximately 550 different weights and measures jurisdictions in the United States. NIST authorities explained that while there are many detailed regulations, there are several key requirements of the law:



  • Consumers must be able to compare similar products.
  • The federal labeling law requires consumer product packaging and/or companion signage to provide the following information in a manner easily accessed and understandable to the average consumer:¬†



    1. A declaration of identity: What the product is.
    2. A declaration of net contents: The size, quantity or count of the product offered for sale at the identified price.
    3. A declaration of responsibility: Who produced the product and where that business is located.


  • All measurements must be stated in both metric and imperial (inch/pound/ounce) units.

"My initial fear was that these regulations would require our business and this industry to significantly change our practices container size, trays, racks and trucking," says Fujino. "Now, having studied the regulations and spoken with the officials at NIST, it is clear that existing regulations require only that we change the information that we label our plants with." Those laws allow the required information to appear on container labels, stick tags, hang tags or localized signage.


The task force will begin to discuss its research during the summer trade shows. Their goal is to release compliance assistance guidelines in early fall of this year. "Just like the speed limit, everyone can decide for themselves how fully they want to comply," says DeJong. "We just want to make sure that the industry has the best understanding possible of the simplest ways to comply with these regulations. What to do with that information is up to the individual business owner."


Task force members will be discussing their research, answering questions and gathering feedback at summer trade shows and events including the OFA Short Course, ANLA Annual Convention and Learning Retreat, PANTS, SNA and FarWest. For more information please contact ANLA at (202) 789-2900.


NAHSA


During its 17th Annual Meeting held June 13-16, The North American Horticultural Supply Association's (NAHSA) board of directors created a Weights and Measures Task Force as well in response to concerns expressed by distributor members about compliance recommendations for existing weights and measures regulations that were presentated by the joint task force from ANLA and SAF on the nationwide compliance procedures for supplies and retailers.


Retailers who fail to comply with Pennsylvania's policy and sell products that do not equal the advertised measure will risk fines and possibly a suspension of operation which places the onus for compliance on the manufacturer of containers to have their products accuratly identified and the growers and retailers who label and advertise the final product.


NAHSA's board of directors, speaking for its distributator membership, expressed concern that the joint task force's recommendation that every retail product be labeled with container volume, content description and a declaration of responsibility (the names of the grower or supplier) could severly impact the small to medium grower, who make up approximatly 60 percent of the market, according to NAHSA. NAHSA's new Weights and Measures Task Force was created with the following two primary objectives:



  • NAHSA's efforts will be focused on ensuring fair reprenstation of the interests of suppliers and growers of all sizes throughout the process of developing fair and equitable complaince guidelines.
  • NAHSA will serve as a disseminator of information on such guidelines through its distrobutor membership directly to growers and will immidiatly begin to do so with regards to the actual volume disclosures of horticultural containers.

NAHSA did endorse the ANLA task force's recommendation with regards to how container sizes will be determined and the disclosure requirements for maunfacturers of such products, but did not endorse the labeling and sigange recommendations at the retail end of the channel, according to NAHSA. The NAHSA Task Force reported that it will work to ensure growers of all sizes and the rest of the industry agree on labeling and sigange compliance procedures before they are recommended for ruling. In the meantime, NAHSA will begin to prepare general compliance information to distribute to suppliers and growers. In all, it is the goal of the NAHSA Task Force to help the joint task force to establish a fair and consistent set of guidelines and to use the distributator membership with their customer contacts to get the proper information to the growers and retailers. For more information, contact the NAHSA at (215) 564-3484.

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