This week, Congress will be back in session to wrap up the budget bills that were not completed before the election. Rumor has it that opponents of country of origin labeling (COOL) will try to use the budget process as a mechanism to push through a bill that will change COOL from mandatory to voluntary. This would override the provision of the 2002 Farm Bill which established a requirement for MANDATORY country of origin labeling for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, beef, lamb, pork, seafood, and peanuts.
Earlier this year, the meat and grocery industries pressured Congress to delay the implementation of mandatory COOL by two years, until 2006. But they aren’t content to stop there — they want to replace the mandatory program with a voluntary system, effectively killing any chance that consumers will receive information about where their food comes from.
We need to let the House and Senate know that consumers want them to protect MANDATORY country of origin labeling.
If you only have time to make one call, please call your U.S. Representative.
If you have time to make several calls, please call your Senators as well.
To reach your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. They will direct you to your members of Congress.
Tell them you urge/want them to
— Vote NO on any efforts to make COOL a voluntary program.
The 2002 Farm Bill required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to write rules for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) of beef, lamb, pork, fish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and peanuts. The label would be found on foods sold in grocery stores, and would state the food’s country of origin. The Farm Bill called for the rules to go into effect in September 2004.
Since the passage of the Farm Bill, corporate agribusiness, especially the meat and grocery industries, worked to delay and hope to ultimately kill COOL. This kind of labeling could benefit both consumers, who will be able to make an informed choice and buy food produced closer to home, and producers, who need a way to identify their crops and livestock as products of the United States.
In January, under pressure from the agribusiness and the grocery industry, Congress voted to delay the implementation of COOL, except for seafood, until September 2006.
- Voluntary COOL does NOT have the support of commodity industries covered by the bill. In fact, over 170 agriculture and consumer groups support mandatory COOL, including the 2 largest farm organizations and the 3 largest consumer organizations.
- Every consumer survey conducted clearly indicates an overwhelming demand and even a willingness to pay a premium for the information provided by a mandatory COOL program.
- Voluntary COOL is currently available and has been for a number of years, yet companies that import cheaper, often lower-quality food products have been unwilling to participate. Voluntary COOL is like having a voluntary speed limit — it is not realistic!