Senate Acts on Country-of-Origin Food Labeling
Appropriators approve $84 Billion for agriculture programs in fiscal year 2005
WASHINGTON, DC - 09/20/04 - The Senate Appropriations Committee has rejected an attempt to move up the date for mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) of imported food products.
The attempt to move to mandatory labeling of fruits, vegetables, meat and meat products, and other food products beginning January 1, 2005, was defeated last week by a 14 -14 tie vote.
According to sources, the amendment may be reintroduced when the appropriations bill reaches the Senate floor, according to news reports.
Mandatory country-of-origin labeling was included in the 2002 Farm Bill. Originally, labeling was to begin at the end of this month, but was later pushed back by Congress to September 30, 2006.
The committee also approved by voice vote an $84 billion measure to fund agriculture programs in fiscal year 2005, which begins October 1.
The funding bill would provide $16.8 billion in discretionary funding for most US Department of Agriculture (USDA) operations and for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
That amount is nearly equal to that approved by the full House of Representatives in July.
The USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) would receive $824 million, a 6% increase over the current funding level, while the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would get $792 million, an overall increase of 10%.
US trading partners have long opposed mandatory COOL, viewing it as a trade barrier thinly disguised as a consumer right-to-know issue and there is some speculation that they will file complaints with the World Trade Organization whenever the labeling law goes into effect.
At the same time, according to sources, a number of US-based food companies are concerned that once mandatory country-of-origin labeling goes into effect, trading partners will retaliate, hindering trade, and driving up costs.
Concerns about the ramifications of COOL are particularly intense in the North American trade in beef and pork.
Mexican beef and pork producers/processors have told their US counterparts that country-of-origin labeling will have a negative affect on their ability to market Mexican beef and pork products in the US. As such, they have indicated it as one of the issues influencing their on-going antidumping and safeguard actions against US pork and beef exports.
There counterparts in the US Southwest say that beef from Mexico and the US is often mixed in packing houses and that labeling would increase processing costs.
Cattle ranchers in the US Midwest, however, want labels that tell consumers where their food originated because of concerns about competition from Canadian beef producers.
Those ranchers argue that labels could tell consumers if their meat is from an area where bovine spongiform encephalopathy - aka mad cow disease - has been identified, according to industry reports.
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