USDA Urged to Protect Integrity of COOL

A coalition of more than 200 rural, faith, consumer and environmental organizations from 45 states are urging USDA to protect the integrity of Country of Origin Labeling for meat products. Mandatory COOL provisions for beef, pork, poultry, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and some nuts were included in the 2008 Farm Bill. Canada and Mexico successfully challenged the implemented rules for meat products at the World Trade Organization as a barrier to international trade. USDA issued proposed new rules that simplify and clarify COOL to comply with that WTO decision in early March. The proposed rules would ensure all meat from animals born, raised and processed in the U.S. will bear a "born, raised and slaughtered in the USA' label. Some of the labeling provisions highlighted in the WTO ruling would be eliminated. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says U.S. farmers and ranchers take pride in what they produce - and consumers ought to be able to know the origins of their food. He says NFU has long supported COOL and urges USDA to move forward with the new, more accurate, strengthened proposed rule.

NFU was among the groups that signed a letter to USDA as part of the regulatory comment period that closes on April 11th. The Consumer Federation of America, Food and Water Watch and R-CALF USA were also among those signing the letter. CFA Food Policy Institute Director Chris Waldrop says strengthening the country of origin label provides consumers with more accurate and precise information about the source of beef and pork products they purchase. Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter says consumer and farmer advocates pushed for COOL for more than a decade. Bill Bullard - CEO of R-CALF USA - says a regulatory fix is a preferred response to the WTO because the U.S. can preserve its sovereignty while simultaneously improving the accuracy of information conveyed to consumers.

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