USDA's Ag Marketing Service wound up with 913 comments before it closed the comment period on it's proposed rule change on Country of Origin Labeling, and it looks like opponents gained a little toward the end.
In fact, it looks like maybe the free traders within the industry may have eeked out a plurality. (Consumers who commented were uniformly supportive of the rule change.) Here's a quick sampling:
NCBA's explanation of it's opposition
R-Calf's news release on why it is working with consumerist and environmental activists to support the changes:
Among the general comments, we find that the Mexican Ganaderos association "will decidely be requesting the Mexican government to move toward realiation as early and aggressivly as possible utilizing appropriate WTO resources."
Barry Becker says "yes we need this! I am very proud of my cattle I raise. we need to stop the ncba and the check off. I have 400 momma beef cow. and verry much do not like the ncba. lets get real cool lets do it now."
James Keller allows: "We are a Kansas ranching family with a cow/calf operation along with a stocker operation.
We implore our government to abide by the WTO ruling and move on. We don't think anything of value has ever come from mandatory COOL.......it has been costly and made people in this beef industry of ours jump through a lot of hoops. In addition, our take on these new proposed rules would make things that much worse for our partners in our beef industry.Please, abide by the WTO ruling."
But, Jay Pfeifer at the Bar P Ranch needs lots of exclamation marks to express the depth of his support: "I feel we need this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here is what the proposed COOL Rule does:
- It provides more, and more specific information to consumers: The proposed COOL rule requires labels on muscle cuts of meat to state the country where each of the three production steps (born, raised, and slaughtered) occurred. For example, if an animal was born and raised in Canada and slaughtered in the U.S., the label would state "Born and Raised in Canada, Slaughtered in the United States." If the muscle cut of meat is exclusively of U.S. origin, the label would state "Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the United States." This requirement addresses the WTO claim that COOL discriminates against foreign cattle because not enough information is passed on to consumers.
- It eliminates the loophole that currently allows exclusively U.S. muscle cuts to be mislabeled as if they were of mixed origin: The proposed COOL rule would prohibit meatpackers from using a multiple-country label on muscle cuts that are from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
- It addresses the negative WTO ruling without ceding the United States' sovereign right to pass and enforce laws that require retailers to inform consumers about the origins of their food."
The note from Charlie Bradbury of Nolan Ryan Beef explains how COOL forces his company to avoid Mexican cattle fed in the U.S, and might well serve as "exhibit A" in the Ganadero's WTO challenge.
Pamela Leighton-Burwell's take seemed about par for consumer reaction: "Every consumer needs to know that the products they are purchasing are genuine, pure, unadulterated genetically and safe for consumption. The proposed Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling rules are a good start. Strengthen and approve them."
(Do not, by the way, blame the Grazers for all those typos and grammatical mistakes. They are copy-paste sic)
So now, USDA has to make its decision. Our bet: They institute the rules and let the WTO do its thing.
Best Burger show
Reality TV is not always that great, but let's all try to tune into this "best burger" thing tonight.
Missouri's right-to-farm amendment
Gets pro and con treatment in the Joplin paper
"Molecule of heart disease"
This is a scary study indicating there may be some sort of bacterial reaction with red meat that contributes to heart disease. But it's one study and it certainly doesn't offset the thousands of studies proving the importance of red meat in the diet.
More access to Japan?
Perhaps the most portentious news of the week, for beef producers, is the indication that Japan may be willing to accept a lot more beef in order to get involved with the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Seems to be moving forward, check out these stories and columns from:
New York Times "The Caucus" blog
The Leaf Chronicle
"Copped out" in Australia
They've got the same drought problem much of the U.S. has, but a much more entertaining way of talking about it. A bit abashed, we admit to having had to look up the term "agistment." It means they're shipping cattle to greener pastures.
Speaking of Australia, they've got a new certification program going.