By Jim Dickrell, editor Dairy Today
A debate between a retired Kansas State economist and a retired Texas Congressman did reach one area of agreement at this week's Agricultural Media Summit in Fort Worth: Country of origin labeling (COOL) isn't all that cool.
"I think COOL is pure crap,” says Barry Flinchbaugh, former professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. "If Americans are willing to pay for labeled American products, they will. And if it's cost effective, the market will handle it.”
But requiring country-of-origin labeling through legislation and regulation and driving up costs doesn't make sense, he says.
Charlie Stenholm, a retired U.S. Congressman from Texas, had another take: "How can you be 100% in favor of COOL and 100% against national animal identification? Labeling requirements should be a food safety issue.”
Both speakers also agreed that the World Trade Organization talks must move forward and agreement must be reached. "I'm hopeful we'll approve open trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and South Korea and that will then set a pattern where we get momentum to get a WTO agreement,” says Stenholm.
Flinchbaugh agreed, saying the problem was not with the Obama Administration but with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "We need to make an appointment with the Speaker and take a long a 2 x 4 to get her attention….We're closer to a WTO agreement than we've ever been before,” says Flinchbaugh.
"We're separated by minutiae. World leaders know an agreement has to get done if we're going to recover from the global financial recession. They're butt is in the frying pan, and the heat is being turned up,” he says.
The Ag Media Summit attracted some 700 ag communications professionals from around the world.