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    PMA, WGA Release Draft Country-of-origin Labeling Best Practices

    Trade groups issue joint COOL best management practice guidelines; free industry Webinar is planned for June 24.

    The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and the Western Growers Association (WGA) jointly released draft best management practices for produce country-of-origin labeling. The draft best practices were developed by a joint PMA-WGA Country of Origin Labeling Task Force, whose members hail from across the supply chain.

    The task force was co-chaired by Tom Deardorff II of Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, Calif., and Mike O'Brien of St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets.

    "After weekly conference calls throughout May to develop these draft best practices, the task force is pleased to present these to industry for its review and adoption," said Deardorff. "I'd like to thank the members of the task force for their willingness to come to the table with ideas and concepts that will help everyone in the supply chain provide origin labeling in a cost-effective manner."

    The draft best practices -- which address supplier and retailer origin labeling and recordkeeping -- could be updated to meet forthcoming U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, and based on industry experience. Release of those regulations is expected in July. While there are no means to confirm how quickly after the Sept. 30, 2008 origin-labeling deadline USDA will begin in-store compliance checks, it's generally believed that the agency will allow a phase-in period (possibly ranging from six months to a year).

    "The intent in creating these best practices is to give our industry guidance that can be implemented as soon as practically possible by all supply chain partners," noted O'Brien. "Currently, 80 percent of produce already carries a labeling mechanism of some type that would be adaptable to convey country-of-origin labeling, and 60 percent already bears country-of-origin labeling. With this level of labeling already in place, the best practices reflect the willingness of the supplier, importer, wholesaler and retailer communities to come together and develop supply chain solutions."

    PMA and WGA will co-host a Webinar for industry to provide feedback on the draft country-of-origin labeling best practices. The Webinar will be held Tuesday, June 24 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Additional specifics of this meeting, including registration details, will be distributed to PMA and WGA members in the near future.

    The draft country-of-origin labeling best practices can be accessed via the WGA Web site at www.wga.com, or the PMA Web site at http://www.pma.com/issues/labeling.cfm.

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