A letter to Mr Bush

Related tags United states congress

A coalition of 165 US food manufacturers and associations sent a
letter to President Bush this week arguing that a two-year delay of
the mandatory country-of-origin labelling law is not supported by
the overwhelming majority of US food manufacturers. The coalition,
called Americans for Country of Origin Labeling (ACOL), is urging
the President to oppose Congressional efforts to delay
country-of-origin labelling.

The letter, written on behalf of the coalition​ by the Alaska Farmers Union, said that the group was greatly concerned by recent comments made by secretary of agriculture Ann Veneman. The secretary is quoted in recent media reports as saying that Congress is blocking implementation of the labelling law (COOL) at the behest of farm groups.

"As representatives of the majority of individuals affected by this law, we want to make you aware that the overwhelming majority of farmers, ranchers and consumers support this law,"​ said the letter.

The issue of country-of-origin labelling has been bubbling away for decades. For more than 70 years, goods imported into the United States have been required to be labelled with the product's country of origin so that the ultimate consumer will know where it was produced. But certain products such as fruit and vegetables were exempted from the original labelling law. ACOL argues that the COOL bill, which will amend this loophole, must be passed. Fruit and vegetable imports into the United States topped $1.7 billion in 1996.

In the letter, the group argued that the three organisations cited by the secretary as being in favor of delaying country-of-origin labelling represent only a small fraction of the two million producers impacted by the law. The letter goes on to say that a group of over 130 agriculture and consumer groups has repeatedly voiced its support to Congress in favour of the COOL law signed in 2002.

"While the department and many in your administration have been quick to criticise the law, they have yet to offer any constructive advice on how to make this law workable and fair to all affected parties,"​ said the coalition. "Worse yet, the administration has unfortunately sent signals that it is open to a repeal of the law."

ACOL has consistently argued that country-of-origin labelling is necessary for US producers to differentiate their products from commodities produced in other countries. "To reiterate, over 50 million Americans support mandatory labelling for meats, produce, fish and peanuts,"​ the coalition told Bush. "We urge you to encourage congressional leaders to rectify the gross error they are making by attempting to undermine the labelling law within the 2004 appropriations bill. Congress must be encouraged to defend the country-of-origin labelling law on behalf of US producers and consumers."

But not every sector of the food processing industry is in sympathy with the coalition. The National Pork Producers Council​ (NPPC) for example believes that the recent Congressional block is a big win for the US pork industry.

"While NPPC continues to oppose mandatory country-of-origin labelling, the two-year time out period should give all parties ample time to create a voluntary, market-driven framework,"​ said president Jon Caspers. "We must now work to resolve the many problems with mandatory country-of-origin labelling - its failure to raise hog prices long-term; exemptions for chicken and turkey products; a reduction in record US pork exports and less than 50 percent of pork products would be covered by country-of-origin labelling."

Related topics Processing & Packaging

Related news

Follow us


View more