Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
In Absence of USDA Report, Pombo Requests Labeling Study from GAO
Washington, D.C. — With the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) three months past the due date for providing a legally mandated report on country-of-origin labeling for meat, House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) sent a letter to the General Accounting Office (GAO) requesting that it provide critical cost-benefit information on country-of-origin labeling to the Subcommittee.
The complete text of the letter is available on request.
When Congress passed the Omnibus Appropriations bill last fall, provisions were included which required the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare and submit reports on the costs and benefits of mandatory country-of-origin labeling for fruits and vegetables, and meats respectively. Both reports were to be submitted to Congress by April 21, 1999, and the GAO has fully complied with the law, while USDA has not.
"It is now over three months beyond the statutory deadline and we still have not seen the report," Pombo wrote. "Also, the Department is either unwilling or unable to provide a reliable estimate regarding the completion of their report. Finally, there are indications that subsequent rewriting has significantly undermined the views of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. This perception may damage the final product's credibility with the public."
"In any event, we still have no reasonable unbiased study of the potential costs and benefits if mandatory country of origin labeling were imposed for beef and lamb products," Pombo wrote. "While some are willing to proceed without a sound cost-benefit analysis, my own view is that would be irresponsible. With this in mind I request that your office take on the task of providing the Subcommittee with the kind of cost-benefit examination that Congress had sought in P.L. 105-277."
Pombo represents the Eleventh District of California, which includes San Joaquin County and a part of Sacramento County.