For Immediate Release - September 28, 2010

Agricultural Officials, Local Producers Unveil "Seal of Commonwealth Quality"

Label will identify locally grown agricultural, forestry and fisheries products that meet high standards

Image of the seal. pdf format of CQ_Logo_For_Print.pdf

Photos from the event.

BOSTON - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - Today, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) along with farm, fishery and forestry leaders announced "Commonwealth Quality," a joint initiative that will promote local agriculture and help consumers identify products that are produced, harvested and responsibly processed in Massachusetts. The program is the result of broad collaboration between DAR and representatives of produce, dairy, forestry, aquaculture and lobster commodities of the Commonwealth.

Central to the initiative is a licensed "Seal of Commonwealth Quality" which will distinguish Massachusetts products that meet comprehensive program requirements as well as federal, state and local regulatory regulations. The seal will appear on certified Massachusetts produce, dairy, seafood and lumber products at farm stands, farmers' markets and retail locations across the state.

"For consumers, the Commonwealth Quality seal will allow them to recognize products from local growers who maintain practices that are safe and environmentally friendly," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "For Massachusetts growers, Commonwealth Quality provides a marketing opportunity to increase their ability to meet growing consumer demand for local products. It is the ultimate win-win."

Farmers and agricultural industry representatives from Amherst, Concord, Dennis, Dracut, Methuen, and Orange joined Commissioner Soares at the event.

Most state agriculture label programs do not necessitate that a product or business meet specific standards to qualify for use of a promotional logo. Commonwealth Quality establishes a clearly defined set of standards for program participants. This highly structured program and the collaboration behind it represent a significant advancement over traditional state label programs. As a result, consumers will be able to easily identify and enjoy certified products, knowing they are grown, harvested and processed in Massachusetts using practices that are safe and environmentally friendly.

"The Seal of Commonwealth Quality provides an assurance to our customers that food safety and environmental stewardship are practiced every day on local farms," said Dr. Rich Bonanno, president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation.

"Fulfilling local needs with local products is essential to our long-term sustainability," said Fred Heyes, owner of Heyes Forest Products and Commonwealth Quality contributor. "Commonwealth Quality will help clearly convey this message to the citizens of the Commonwealth."

Consumers can look for the "Seal of Commonwealth Quality" at farm stands, farmers' markets, and retail and wholesale locations beginning January 2011. For more information about Commonwealth Quality, visit www.mass.gov/agr/markets/commonwealth_quality.htm.

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow us at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish. For your gateway to locally grown products, specialty foods, and fun ag-tivities go to www.mass.gov/massgrown.