HOUSE VOTES TO BLOCK NEW COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday to prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from requiring meatpackers and grocers to inform consumers whether hamburger, sausage and other beef, lamb and pork products came from outside the United States.
Four Alabama Congressmen were unsuccessful in stopping the amendment which removed the country-of-origin labeling requirements for most meats.
Alabama Congressmen who voted for an amendment which would have restored the authority of USDA to label meat included U.S. Reps. Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, Artur Davis and Mike Rogers.
U.S Reps. Robert Aderholt, Bud Cramer and Terry Everett, all of Alabama, did not vote on the measure.
The 208-193 vote effectively exempts meat products from the country-of-origin labels that Congress last year ordered for a wide variety of foods, including fish, fruits and vegetables.
Grocers, large livestock operations and packinghouses have been trying to get the requirements reversed or at least postponed ever since the law was passed as part of the Farm Bill. The law required that foods start carrying the labels by September 2004.
The effort to roll back the labeling requirement faces a more difficult road in the Senate, where the idea originated as part of the 2002 Farm Bill.
Senators from both parties representing the nation's beef-producing heartland said Tuesday they have the votes to preserve a labeling law that next year will require hamburger and other meats to include the country of origin on their packaging.
But giving consumers a clear choice between domestic and foreign meat products is much more popular in the Senate, where the labeling requirement has the support of powerful farm state lawmakers like Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa.
``It will not be lost in the Senate,'' said Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., responding to the House vote that would prevent the Agriculture Department from spending any money on meeting an October 2004 deadline for having the labels in place on meat products in grocery stores.
"It would be completely irresponsible to reverse course," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "The recent mad cow scare in Canada is one more reminder that the new labeling law can serve as an important marketing and informational tool."
The food labeling vote in the House was on an amendment by Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., to preserve the requirement as part of a $17 billion spending bill for the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration.