issues final rule for country-of-origin label rule
The final rule
for country-of-origin labeling was issued today, bringing a sigh
of relief - if not exuberant elation - within the commercial
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released details of the final
document that outlines mandatory labeling regulations required
under the 2002 and 2008 farm bills.
The rule, which will be published Thursday in the Federal Register
and take effect March 16, covers muscle cuts and ground beef,
lamb, chicken, goat and pork as well as wild and farm-raised fish
and shellfish, perishable commodities such as fruits and
vegetables, and nuts.
Commodities covered under COOL will have to be labeled in retail
to indicate its country of origin, and for fish and shellfish, the
method of production - either wild or farm-raised - will need to
be specified, according to a USDA news release.
The final rule's release pleases the National Cattlemen's Beef
Association, said Heather Vaughan, the organization's Washington,
"Uncertainty is not good for the market and it doesn't do anything
for beef demand, so having a final rule in place was something
we've pushed for," Vaughan said. "Now we can evaluate its
six-month implementation period.... The other thing it does is
allow people to really devote resources to implementing this and
educating consumers, producers and retailers on what needs to be
done to comply with the rule."
The NCBA had been active in negotiating the details of the
labeling law, whose aim is to promote domestic livestock. While
organization officials haven't yet fully examined the 260-page
final document, it appears to provide more clarity in labeling
requirements and make it easier for producers to comply, Vaughan
"When this was originally passed in the 2002 Farm Bill it was
going to be really impossible for the beef industry to implement,
so what we did was worked to make sure it was feasible to
implement," she said. "While we weren't thrilled by what was
essentially a mandatory marketing program, we were pleased that
the beef industry could implement this without it being
One big concession that producers won is the ability to use
everyday business documents such as import papers and sales
receipts to verify the origin of animals, they said.
"Originally there was going to be a whole new set of paperwork,"
said Dave Warner, communications director for the National Pork
The pork producers' group had originally opposed COOL and worked
to have its implementation delayed, then tried to get more
flexibility in labeling, Warner said. For instance, pigs born in
Canada but slaughtered in the United States can be labeled as
being from the U.S. and Canada.
Despite the added flexibility, however, the labeling law has been
estimated to cost the livestock industry $2.5 billion initially
and nearly $212 million annually over the next 10 years, the pork
producers' council asserts in a news release. The group already
has received reports that producers have faced higher
transportation costs because some packing plants will process only
U.S.-origin pigs, the release states.
"We're pleased with the changes that we got in the 2008 Farm Bill
that make the law a little more flexible for pork producers,"
Warner said. "We still believe overall it's going to be costly and
potentially hard to implement, at least at the packer level. If
their costs go up, that's money they might not be able to pay a
producer for their hogs."
The USDA plans to make funding available to provide training,
develop an automated review tracking system, survey retailers,
audit the retail supply chain and keep doing education and
outreach, according to its news release