(March 20) A University of Florida study conducted last year shows consumers are willing to pay a significant premium for U.S.-labeled produce.

In particular, the study examined the premium consumers in three states would pay for tomatoes and apples labeled with “U.S.A. Grown,” compared with an identical lot of fresh apples or tomatoes that was not labeled.

The study found that consumers would pay an average premium of 44 cents for a pound for fresh tomatoes labeled U.S.-grown and a premium of 48 cents for a pound of apples with a “U.S.A. Grown” label over nonlabeled apples.

The study revealed that 79% of consumers said they were willing to pay a significant premium for the fresh apples labeled U.S.-grown; 69% of consumers said they would pay a price premium for tomatoes labeled U.S.-grown.

These are fascinating statistics, but there are some questions.

The scope of the study was limited to three states — Florida, Georgia and Michigan. Not surprisingly, Florida’s consumers were most willing to pay a high premium for tomatoes labeled as U.S.-grown, while Georgia consumers paid the biggest premium for labeled apples.

Consumers in Michigan said they were less willing to pay a high premium on both commodities.

This study indicates there is some consumer bias, at least in some regions, to purchase U.S.-grown produce.

How much of a premium consumers really would pay — and what that might mean for offsetting the cost of implementing country-of-origin labeling — are two questions that merit further study.