DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) is completely flabbergasted by action of a key congressional conference committee to delay until 2008 implementation of country-of-origin label or COOL. It is the second time that Congress has delayed enactment of COOL, a measure adopted as part of the 2002 farm bill and one that is overwhelmingly favored by both U.S. consumers and producers of agricultural products.
“I cannot believe members of a congressional conference committee have the audacity to delay this long-awaited provision without any public debate or a vote from decision makers,” said John Stencel, RMFU president. “On one hand producers are being told they should not depend on government programs to improve their bottom lines, yet when they try to enhance their marketing opportunities by using a tool such as COOL, they are prevented from doing so.”
More than 80 percent of consumers surveyed support labeling and are willing to pay a little more for it. In addition, many local, state and national agricultural groups support COOL.
“RMFU is saddened and angered that Congress has sold out to the few very powerful, multi-national supermarket and food processing conglomerates opposing COOL,” Stencel said. “Those fighting COOL say it is expensive to implement, yet these same retailers have no problem keeping track of what brand of toothpaste a customer buys.” RMFU, along with National Farmers Union, was one of the first to call for country-of-origin labeling for food. It believes the staunch opposition to labeling is not really about the cost but that consumers would be shocked that the food they have been buying and thinking was American may be coming from a third-world country, which has greatly inferior health, safety, labor and environmental standards.
“Consumers should not think that just because a piece of meat is stamped with ‘USDA Inspected” it means the meat is U.S. raised,” Stencel said. “If Congress continues to bow to the pressure of food processors and retail grocers, consumers wishing to ‘buy American’ will need to buy direct from producers or cooperatives who are willing to guarantee the country of origin of their products.”
The conference report, which outlines the compromise between the U.S. House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2006 funding bill, will likely be voted on in both houses by the end of the week. RMFU is calling on the public to call their senator and representative to voice their objection to the second delay of COOL implementation.