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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the Omnibus Appropriations bill, which officially delays enforcement of the current mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) law for two years, until Sept. 30, 2006. The bill now moves to the President for signature.
Meanwhile industry associations including the Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, and National Fisheries Institute are beginning their joint efforts to craft a replacement to the program mandated in the 2002 farm bill.
The groups said in a joint press release issued last week that they plan to hold a summit in the near future with other concerned segments of the food industry to develop a consensus voluntary labeling program. They aim to finalize a labeling program by this spring, involving as many segments of the food industry as possible. They will then work with Congress to codify the program into legislation that replaces the mandatory labeling law.
UFFVA president Tom Stenzel called Thursday's decision "a victory" for produce consumers, growers, shippers and marketers across the country who believe in providing country of origin information through a market-driven system. "Delaying the enforcement of this unwieldy law will save the produce supply chain and consumers of fresh produce up to $1.3 billion in the first year alone, according to USDA's estimates of what it would have taken to implement this burdensome rule," he said.