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January 23, 2004   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 23, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congress has agreed to block the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law for two years in a measure included in a $375 billion government spending bill on Thursday. The spending bill now heads to the president for his signature.

The Bush administration backed the postponement of the label law, which was written by Republican leaders. Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and other proponents said they would try to overturn the delay in the coming weeks.

The 2002 Farm Bill contained language that required retailers to provide COOL on fresh fruits and vegetables, red meats, seafood, and peanuts beginning on Sept. 30, 2004. Until then, the program was voluntary.

The country-of-origin labeling law would mandate that the origins of a wide variety of commodities such as beef, pork and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables will have to be labeled on supermarket shelves. But a primary concern of those who oppose country-of-origin labeling is the cost that it will impose on producers, processors and retailers. In addition to the potential billion-dollar cost of implementing mandatory labeling, livestock groups say the system was unfair because it didn't cover restaurants or food service businesses -- some of the main outlets for imported meat, and it excluded poultry altogether. Some cattle and hog producers say the cost of mandatory labeling would mean lower slaughter prices for their animals.

A USDA official said the delay gives Congress additional time to address the impacts of the requirements.

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