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U.S. Senators urged to support “COOL”

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Five Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members today joined approximately 100 other farmers and ranchers from throughout the United States to urge U.S. senators to fund country-of-origin labeling (COOL). National Farmers Union (NFU) organized the one-day fly-in.

“Not funding oversight of COOL is nothing more than a concerted effort to kill this bill even though it is overwhelmingly favored by producers and consumers alike,” said Lee Otto, a Torrington, Wyo., cow-calf operator and fly-in participant.

Mandatory country-of-origin labeling on food products including fresh meat, honey, fish and vegetables, was included in the 2002 farm bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President George Bush. However, opponents of COOL, which included food processors and grocery associations, vehemently opposed the measure, charging it would be burdensome and costly. Proponents of COOL say the cost of implementation should be minimal since most producers already keep the records specified under the farm bill COOL law. More than 80 percent of consumers support labeling and are willing to pay more for it. In addition, both NFU and the American Farm Bureau Federation, as well as many state and local cattlemen’s associations support COOL.

“This is definitely a situation where the wishes of the majority are not being implemented due to the clout being exercised by a few large and powerful corporations,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “I urge consumers and producers to hold accountable their senators and representatives who do not support COOL.”

COOL is even more important now that a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease has been found in the United States. According to Stencel, if COOL had been implemented when the cow diagnosed with BSE went to the processing plant, U.S. cattle producers markets would likely not have dropped as they did.

“A lot of Americans want to buy American grown or raised foods, and without labeling, we deny them the option of making the choice,” said Cleta Hiner Felzien, a Limon, Colo., cattle producer who also participated in the fly-in. “In addition, our major trading partners have refused to open their markets to U.S. meats unless we can guarantee that it is born, raised and processed in the United States.”

In addition to Otto and Felzien, RMFU fly-in participants included: Maurice Runyan, House, N.M.; Marilyn and Kelly Wentz, Strasburg, Colo.