Made in the U.S.A. and dead in the California Assembly?

By Rodric Hurdle-Bradford | Aug 18, 2016

SACRAMENTO - In an election and Olympic year it's not surprising that nationalism and even a strong sense of state identity are sweeping the nation.

But a legislative proposal that initially enjoyed broad support in the state assembly - and enjoyed an all-American nickname - has vanished from the agendas of lawmakers with no explanation.

Assembly Bill 2827 was dubbed the "Made in the U.S.A." and "Made in California" bill that was structured based upon existing federal laws and regulations.

AB 2827 was introduced to the state assembly in February by Rep. Marc Levine (D-10th District) and quickly led to a lot of discussion by both supporters and opponents. Before even getting a vote on the assembly floor, though, the bill was pulled in July and replaced with another measure dealing with mental health programs.


Was AB 2827 pulled due an impending defeat and lack of popularity? Election-year positioning? Other outside interests?

Time may tell, but Levine's office did not respond to several interview requests.

Existing law prohibits the sale of any merchandise that displays the words "Made in the U.S.A.," "Made in America," or similar words when the merchandise or any article, unit or part thereof, has been entirely or substantially made, manufactured or produced outside of the United States.

What AB 2827 and bill sponsor Levine also aimed to do was to provide companies with a right to cure period, that included giving the violating party 33 days to come into compliance after receiving written notification from the state.

This included infractions for both "Made in California" and "Made in the U.S.A." or "Made in America" labeling.

This was a major sticking point for opponents of the bill, including from an industry that would seem unrelated to the legislation.

"We opposed the bill because it posed both immediate and long-term threats to animals and to consumers who might seek to protect animals," said Jeffrey Pierce, legislative counsel for the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund. "I think (Levine)'s ambition was to protect small businesses who could not afford a lawyer but very few laws directly benefit animals. There is a lot of false advertising in the egg industry, and that is what we represent."

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was largely against AB 2827 because producers could hypothetically operate against production laws for 30 days without any repercussions. They point to a case in 2007 when pets died after consuming adulterated products containing ingredients imported from China, leading many pet owners to change their purchasing habits to pet food made in the U.S.A.

The group also was worried about the mistreatment of animals during the breeding process, and that the bill had no legal or regulatory authority to immediately stop out-of-compliance producers, especially in the egg industry.

To Pierce and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the 33-day wait period is in direct contradiction of the federal Endangered Species Act that immediately and enforces compliance.


"It gives producers less incentive to do right and gives them a lack of accountability," said Pierce. "Studies show that consumers are willing to spend more money on products when they know the animal has been treated properly."

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was not the only opposition of AB 2827, they were joined by the Consumer Federation of California, California Conference of Machinists and several other labor unions.

Support for AB 2827 was wide-ranging, including from the California Chamber of Commerce, California Manufacturers and Technology Association, California Retailers Association and California Small Business Association.

"The California Chamber of Commerce is pleased to support AB 2827, which has been labeled as a job creator, as it will provide businesses with a limited time period in which to resolve alleged labeling violations without facing devastating litigation," Jennifer Barrera, policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an April letter. "This financial threat of litigation has created an opportunity for attorneys to leverage businesses into quick monetary settlements for alleged misrepresentations on labels of goods that represent 'Made in the U.S.A.' or 'Made in California' or even a specific location in California."

The California Chamber of Commerce acknowledged there are examples of companies misrepresenting where a product was produced, but also pointed out numerous examples where all or the majority of all ingredients, components or parts of the product were sourced from the proper geographical location and the threat of litigation was still leveraged against businesses.

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