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Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) President Kent Peppler said today that the Department of Agriculture is creating a loophole in the 2008 Farm Bill’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) provision that will circumvent the intent of the labeling law. “Corporate agriculture has been fighting this basic consumer and producer right for years, and the USDA is putting the meat industry monopoly’s interests first on this. The law means producers will have their product’s origin identified and consumers will be able to determine where their food comes from. Under the USDA’s proposed rules, multinational monopolies will be able to blur the value of American beef by labeling animals born, raised, and processed in the U.S. as ‘multi-country.’ Effectively, almost all animals can be labeled ‘multi-country,’ which makes COOL meaningless.”
Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer, pointed out that COOL was actually legislated in the 2002 Farm Bill. “And the USDA simply failed to implement it at all. Congress legislated a newer, more explicit version in the 2008 Farm Bill. It was a compromise agreed to by consumers, producers, and the meat industry. It looks like the meat industry had its fingers crossed behind its back. Either they lied, or they decided to renege on their deal.” A handful of corporate giants like Tyson and Cargill control the industry. Tyson is not only the largest beef packer, but also second largest in pork and poultry. Cargill is second for beef and also controls animal feed production.
“The meat industry agreed to the wording of this legislation,” Peppler said. “They gave their word they would support it, and those of us who wanted more stringent controls took them at their word and agreed to compromise. Now the two or three packing companies who monopolize the meat industry, have reneged, and they are strong-arming the USDA to wreck country-of-origin labeling for the second time in a decade. They don’t care about their word or the American people. The USDA is supposed to be looking out for the interests of American consumer and producers. They seem to have forgotten that. The USDA should implement the bill the way it was written, not the way agribusiness wanted it written.”
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