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RMFU fights repeal of mandatory food labeling

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) has launched a grassroots effort to discourage U.S. House Agriculture Committee members from repealing a law requiring grocery stores to label certain foods with origin information.

This Thursday, July 22 at 9:30 a.m., the House Agriculture Committee is set to consider legislation to repeal the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law and, instead, maintain a voluntary labeling system. RMFU is enlisting farmers, ranchers and consumers to petition committee members against the voluntary legislation.

“Voluntary country-of-origin labeling is sort of like voluntary taxation. It just isn’t realistic,” said RMFU President John Stencel.

Stencel explained that a voluntary labeling system has been available for years, but packers, processors and retailers have refused to participate. “The proponents of voluntary COOL are companies that import cheaper, often lower-quality food products from other countries,” he said. “They fear U.S. consumers would prefer to buy U.S.-origin food, and these fears are reasonable.” In January, National Farmers Union released the results of a national survey that shows 82 percent of consumers want country-of-origin information on their food and 85 percent would be more inclined to buy food produced in the United States.

“Mandatory COOL is a useful information tool for consumers and a valuable marketing tool for U.S. farmers and ranchers, especially with the continued increases in imported food,” said Stencel.

Instead, Stencel said Farmers Union supports a substitute offered by Reps. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., that he believes more adequately addresses the concerns and controversies surrounding implementation of the mandatory COOL program. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is asking agriculture producers and consumers to call their representatives immediately to urge them to “keep COOL” and support the Rehberg-Peterson substitute.