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One Vote Short!

DENVER>>The head of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union today praised Colorado State Reps. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, and Kay Alexander, R-Montrose, for their efforts this week to direct the Colorado Department of Agriculture to develop a plan for implementing country-of-origin notification on all meat, produce and honey sold in Colorado grocery stores.

In a surprise move during debate over the state budget, Grossman and Alexander introduced an amendment directing the Colorado Department of Agriculture to “develop a proposal for labeling meat, fruit, vegetable, and honey with information on the country of origin, and to submit the proposal to the General Assembly by November 1, 2001.” The proposed amendment sparked lively debate before failing on a 32-32 tie vote, with one member absent. Seven Republicans joined 25 Democrats in supporting the amendment, while one Democrat joined 31 Republicans in opposing the measure.

Dave Carter, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said afterward, “Reps. Alexander and Grossman demonstrated strong leadership is standing up for the Colorado agricultural producers and consumers who are seeking more accountability in the food marketplace. They fought hard to establish a viable, workable program that would let consumers know exactly where their food was produced.”

Grossman noted during floor debate that consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the origin of their food. He noted that country of origin notification “will benefit both consumers and small family farmers and ranchers.”

The Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Diane Hoppe, R-Sterling, spoke against the amendment on the House floor, saying, “Packing plants buy meat from all over the world, or at least from North America. It gets commingled with meat from Colorado, so it would be misbranded if we tried to force the stores to put a label on it.”

Earlier in the session, Rep. Alexander sponsored a bill that would have established a program to require stores to post notices at the point of sale listing the country of origin for meat, produce and honey. That proposal died in Appropriations Committee. Florida currently administers a state country of origin notification program on all produce and honey. Officials with the Department of Agriculture in Florida note that the program is not expensive to administer or enforce.