Natural Foods Merchandiser

Not COOL, ranch supporters cry

In late October, Congress voted to further postpone mandatory country-of-origin labeling laws as part of the $100 billion federal farm appropriations bill.

In 2002, Congress passed a COOL law requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce laws tracking meat, produce, fish and peanuts from farm to plate. But the 2005 vote denied funding for enforcement of COOL until Sept. 30, 2008. While meat packers and retailers have largely opposed COOL, citing onerous paperwork and expenses to implement it, ranchers have favored it, saying it would promote U.S. economic interests and give consumers information they have come to expect on everything from T-shirts to electronics.

Lawmakers in states with significant numbers of cattle ranchers expressed outrage at the gutting of the bill. ?At what point will the House Republicans put aside back-room deals, and actually let the law be implemented?? Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., questioned. But his Republican counterpart was equally dismayed. Sen. John Cune, R-S.D., called the decision unacceptable. He said, ?This delay hurts South Dakota?s cattle producers and treats consumers with disdain.?

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., had stronger words. ?I?m furious,? he said. ?Congress passed a law and this president signed it in 2002. Now there are a few hand wringers in Congress who are bowing to special interests and using backhanded maneuvers to block mandatory COOL. The members who inserted this delay should be ashamed of themselves.?

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 12/p. 9

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