House Ag Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm have introduced voluntary country-of-origin labeling legislation in the U.S. House.
The "Food Promotion Act of 2004" would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the voluntary labeling of produce, meat (including beef, pork, veal and lamb) and seafood with country-of-origin information.
"When we passed the 2002 Farm Bill, we provided two years to review the country-of-origin labeling provisions in order to fine-tune them as necessary," Stenholm said. "Although the time period has slipped a bit, we now begin the legislative process of making the COOL provisions work, and I am confident we will end up with a better product."
From a Texas Farm Bureau standpoint, Legislative Director Steve Pringle said the organization has a "bit of uncertainty" regarding the voluntary COOL issue.
"Texas Farm Bureau delegates in the annual meeting in November (2003) adopted policy requesting a voluntary COOL program," Pringle explained. "However, the delegates at the American Farm Bureau convention chose to maintain a position supporting mandatory COOL. At this point, it is probably too late for the Texas Farm Bureau to timely dissent from American Farm Bureau policy."
Meanwhile, legislation has been introduced in the Senate to implement mandatory COOL by September 30.
Sens. Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson introduced legislation in late May to revert back to the original deadline in the 2002 farm bill implementing COOL.
The bill would repeal a provision in the fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill Congress passed on Jan. 22. The provision delayed by two years the implementation of COOL for meat, meat products, fruits and vegetables.
The American Farm Bureau Federation supports mandatory COOL, pending implementation of an animal identification program. If implemented, AFBF maintains COOL would promote U.S. agriculture by identifying what's grown in the United States.