By Mark Shade
HARRISBURG, Penn (Reuters) - Locally grown produce in Virginia carries a "Virginia Grown" logo. New Jersey-grown goods have "Jersey Fresh" tags, and now in Pennsylvania, the official locally grown tip-off is "PA Preferred."
Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law on Thursday at a suburban Harrisburg grocery store cementing "PA Preferred" as the official brand of Pennsylvania-grown and produced commodities.
"'PA Preferred' tells shoppers they're getting the best. They're getting it fresh, and it's local," Corbett said, standing next to a grocery cart heaped with mushrooms, broccoli, bologna and potato chips from Pennsylvania.
The "PA Preferred" logo has been alerting consumers to locally grown produce since 2004, but the bill Corbett signed into law erases that uncertainty and firmly places the logo on the $5.1 billion-a-year industry.
Branding slogans help support in-state farmers and businesses by helping consumers identify what is "theirs," said New Jersey Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Lynne Richmond,
"People want to buy their own local brand when given the choice. They want to support the farmer," she said.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, 93 percent of people say they prefer buying locally grown and manufactured food and drink.
Businesses that manufacture food products say the "PA Preferred" program helps them too.
"It's a conscious choice for retailers," said Rick Esser, director of sales for Knouse Foods, a Peach Glen, Pennsylvania-based cooperative that makes apple-derived products.
"Seventy-five percent of the apples we use come from Pennsylvania, and we know that because of 'PA Preferred,'" he said.
Knouse Foods is one of some 2,000 companies already participating in the free "PA Preferred" marketing campaign.
Several other states employ similar buy-local branding strategies. "West Virginia Grown," "Pride of New York" and "Ohio Proud" are a few of the slogans that alert residents to their state's locally grown and manufactured produce.
Producers and manufacturers can carry the blue-and-yellow "PA Preferred" logo if their food is completely harvested from a Pennsylvania location or grown at a Pennsylvania site for at least 75 percent of its production cycle.
Processed products must come from a company that is headquartered in the state and completes the final processing and packaging in Pennsylvania, among other requirements.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)