House approves mCOOL delay
The U.S. House of Representatives last week maintained a delay in the implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL) for meat products. The provision barring USDA from spending any money to prepare for COOL’s implementation this September was included in an appropriations bill that the House voted in favor of 408-18.
mCOOL, which is supported by several independent farming and consumer organizations but is opposed by most U.S. meat-industry trade associations, would require meat products sold at retail to indicate the origin of the meat contained in the products. Trade groups opposing the plan say COOL will cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars to implement and that there has been little public outcry for such a labeling law.
Opponents of mCOOL said that by passing the delay, Congress will now have time to take action on a meaningful, bipartisan country-of-origin program that makes sense for both livestock and meat producers and American consumers.
However National Farmers Union president Dave Frederickson, said there was a need for the bill to be allowed immediate implementation because the competitiveness of U.S. producers in the domestic U.S. market is at stake.
“Congress missed an opportunity to help American consumers known where their food comes from, as well as a change to help American producers differentiate their high quality domestic products from imported beef,” said Frederickson. “This law has been on the books for three years. How much more time do they need?”
The Senate has not yet taken up ag appropriations discussion, however, debate and a vote on the issue is expected before the end of the month. Language delaying the implementation of mCOOL is expected to be discussed and voted on by Senate members for inclusion in the appropriations package. However, there appears to be much more support for a mandatory program in that branch of Congress.
If the Senate keeps Sept. 1 mCOOL implementation, then the issue will be decided in an ag appropriations conference committee made up of both Senate and House members.
House Ag Committee Chair, Charles Goodlatte, R-VA, has introduced separate legislation that would repeal country-of-origin labeling on meat permanently. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate, being led by Sens. John Cornyn, R-TX, and Blanche Lincoln, D-AR. A time line on discussion and votes for those bills was not known last week. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor
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