(March 21) MOSES LAKE, Wash. — The governor’s signing of a bill requiring Washington grocery stores to display produce as either “Grown in the United States” or “Grown in Washington” will help the state’s fresh produce industry, said the assistant executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake.

“What this shows is that the legislators are sensitive not only to the farmers’ plight right now and going up against imports from other countries that are protected, but also the consumers’ desire to know where their fresh produce is coming from,” said Karen Bonaudi, the commission‘s assistant executive director.

The bill, signed March 13 by Gov. Gary Locke, applies to all fruits and vegetables not already labeled in bags, Bonaudi said. However, imported produce is not subject to the bill, she said, because federal lawmakers are dealing with the issue in the 2002 farm bill.

The commission has not heard when the bill will take effect but said bills typically become law 90 days after signing, Bonaudi said. She said she also has not heard if the bill contains any specific size requirements for the displays.

In a related matter, one of the bill’s major sponsors, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, Wash., said he will try to sue Locke after he vetoed a section of the bill that would have fined retailers $250 to $1,000 for failing to comply with the law.

Bonaudi said the commission isn’t taking sides on that issue but adds she isn’t sure how much of an impact the penalties would have had on produce displays.

“I think the grocers have gotten the message that the public, the growers and the legislators feel strongly about having the origin of their produce posted,” she said.

Bonaudi said the commission promised to help retailers develop display signs when the commission’s legislative liaison, Charlie Brown, testified in support of the bill in February.