Country-of-origin labeling program faces another possible delay

By Cara Hungerford

June 13, 2005: Despite countless survey’s that show over-whelming public support for country-of-origin labeling (COOL) it is once again in danger of not being implemented or being down-graded to a voluntary program. A provision slipped into the fiscal year 2006 Agriculture Appropriations bill will delay the program’s implementation for at least another year.

In a recent letter to Congress 122 farm organizations including the National Farmers’ Union, American Corn Growers Association and the American Meat Goat Association, opposed the provision to delay the start of COOL for another year. The letter which addresses common arguments made by COOL opponents, namely program costs and implementation logistics, cites the recent successful launch of a mandatory COOL program for seafood as evidence the labeling program is not only feasible but not nearly as costly as original estimates suggested.

A bi-partisan amendment submitted by Representatives Dennis Rehberg and Darlene Hooley would have protected implementation funding for mandatory COOL for beef from further delays but it failed to pass by a vote of 187-240. Supporters of the program are now turning to the Senate hoping to keep similar language out of its 2006 budget proposal. The Senate’s current budget calls for full program implementation in 2006.

Originally slated to take effect in 2004 a similar delay-causing provision was also attached to the 2005 budget.