WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2013 – Twenty-eight senators have called on the Agriculture Department and the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure that updated country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules let U.S. consumers know where their meat is produced.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., are leading the bipartisan group of senators and sent letters to the USDA and USTR.
“Congress intended that COOL provide as much information as possible about the origin of all meat cuts to consumers,” the senators wrote. “Some flexibility is needed, but such flexibility cannot come at the expense of providing reliable information to families about the national origin of meat products.”
The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently required the USDA to adjust its rules requiring U.S. retailers to clearly label where meat was raised and processed. The WTO said while the U.S. can require meat labeling, current COOL rules do not meet WTO standards.
The bipartisan coalition also said the USDA should host a public comment period to allow agriculture workers and consumers to weigh in on any new proposals.
The letter has the support of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen, R-CALF, Food and Water Watch, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA).
“Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from and U.S. farmers and ranchers want to be able to tell them,” said NFU president Roger Johnson. “USDA and USTR should take even stronger regulatory actions to make sure that COOL provides meaningful information about the origins of meat and other products.”
USCA said it supports efforts of the administration to address the changes required by the WTO through regulatory action.
“USCA will continue to work with USTR and the administration to ensure preservation of the original intent of the COOL law,” said USCA president Jon Wooster. “The changes necessary to bring implementation of the rule into compliance with the WTO ruling can be accomplished outside of the legislative arena and we are confident that record-keeping and recording measures may be eased through simple regulatory action.”
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