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DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) is dismayed with a decision made by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee just before it went on its summer recess to eliminate mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meats, honey and fresh produce. The labeling requirement, passed as part of the 2002 farm bill, is slated to become law this fall.
“Two years ago, Congress passed and President George Bush signed into law the 2002 farm bill, which includes implementation of mandatory COOL by this September,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “I think it is unconscionable for our elected officials to listen to meat processors and retailers who oppose this measure rather than the producers and consumers who overwhelmingly favor it.”
According to proponents of COOL, the companies that profit from importing cheaper food products from other countries vehemently oppose COOL because it would let consumers know the source of their food. “More than 170 agriculture producer and consumer groups have advocated a mandatory country-of-origin labeling law for years, including the three largest U.S. consumer groups and the two largest general farm organizations in the nation,” said National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson.
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee members voted 16-to-32 against an amendment to keep COOL mandatory. Committee member Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., voted against mandatory COOL. Committee member Mark Udall, D-Colo., voted in favor of mandatory COOL.
“I would urge both RMFU members and consumers who want to see their food labeled to support elected officials who vote to maintain COOL and take to task those who do not,” Stencel said.
RMFU says that labeling is important to U. S. producers who want to promote the food they produce over food from countries with lower quality, environmental and health standards.
“We have seen a tremendous increase in food imports over the last decade, and with recently signed trade agreements, I believe this trend will continue or even accelerate,” said Stencel. “For consumers who want to buy American, this is an important bill. Voluntary COOL is no COOL at all. The only alternative consumers intent on buying American grown products have is to buy directly from producers, and that’s not realistic for everyone.”
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