July 15, 2003
Message from COOL Listening Sessions: ?Keep it Simple?
Sheep producers from around the country recently participated in U.S. Department of Agriculture listening sessions regarding country-of-origin labeling (COOL). Testifying in favor of COOL were sheep producers Marvin Shurley in Austin, Texas, Fred Blauert in Pasco, Wash., and Dr. Lyndon Irwin in Kansas City, Mo.
Before diverse industry crowds in excess of 200 people per location, USDA provided an overview of the law along with an explanation of its current stance regarding the upcoming regulations. Following the USDA introduction, approximately 60 participants spoke during the public input portion of the sessions. Some sessions had more speakers in support of the law while others had more opposed. The common theme stressed by those in support of the law included the need to keep the final regulations simple and the need to allow producer signatures to serve as a valid proof of origin. Those opposed to COOL voiced support for its concept but concern regarding its implementation -- particularly the record-keeping portion. They also voiced concern regarding the program?s mandatory status in comparison to a voluntary one. Also evident from the wide range of comments was the misconception among producers that a mandatory ID program is tied into the COOL provisions.
A small number of consumers also participated. The overall message from these speakers was that they favor the implementation of mandatory COOL and would be willing to pay higher prices for American products at the grocery, if necessary.
COOL Listening Session Comments Available
If you were unable to attend one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Country-of-Origin (COOL) Listening Sessions, don?t worry. The department has made available the transcripts of all of the speakers and the comments made during each of the sessions. USDA will continue to provide this service for all upcoming meetings.
Currently available for review are the transcripts for the meetings held in Raleigh, N.C., Austin, Texas, Pasco, Wash. and Kearney, Neb. The transcripts can be accessed on the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Web site at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool/citylist.htm
Bill Introduced to Add Poultry & Goat Meat to COOL
Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) in late May introduced legislation to include goat and poultry meat under the new country-of-original labeling (COOL) law. The legislation would also amend the COOL law so that animals born prior to the mandatory program?s implementation date of Oct. 1, 2004, would be grandfathered into the program.
?There are a number of serious questions about this law that need to be addressed, and not treating meats equally is one of them,? stated Thorneberry. ?We should not play favorites. If we are going to mandate labeling for some meats, we should treat all meats the same.?
The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture