By Steve Cornett
This Monday morning is your last chance to offer USDA comments on the rules they will use to implement Country of Origin Labeling. The commenting closes at noon D.C. time.
You can file your opinion along with a few hundred others at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=FSIS-2008-0027 USDA’s web site if you’re in the mood for it.
Reading “suggested comments” from cattle outfits seems to indicate full support for these three components: --Use of producer affidavits as sufficient evident of country of origin --Allowing visual inspection of animals for the presence or absence of federal import markings (brands, ear tags, etc.) as a means to establish country of origin--Clarification that violation of COOL will not trigger meat recalls.
The US Cattlemen’s Association and R-CALF are also upset about the proposed final rules not requiring processors and marketers to isolate and label all product born and raised in the U.S.
The rules as written allow packers that have handled products from other origins during the day to apply a label of “product of U.S., Canada and Mexico.”
With due respect to the protectionists’ concerns, this reporter sees no need for going beyond that. Lots of packers will handle only U.S. product—and that still must be identified as product of the U.S.—and there will be plenty of US labeled beef out there for retailers and consumers to find.
The day will come when we’ll be glad we have that. Some country will have a newsworthy quality issue and consumers who want to avoid product that might come from there will need only avoid the stuff identified as possibly coming from there. The system as proposed also offers consumers a chance to choose only U.S. product if they so choose.If there is enough interest in U.S. beef, the system will provide all the tools marketers need to provide it. (Notice, however, that’s a pretty big if.)
This is not, you’ll recall, supposed to be a protectionist bill. It was not sold to Congress as a system for forcing packers to shoulder the costs of “branding” U.S. beef. It was sold as a way to provide consumers with a choice.