WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Robin Hayes (NC-8), the Chairman of the U.S. House Livestock and Horticulture Agriculture Subcommittee, today held a hearing to review the impact of mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL). The Committee heard from representatives of the fruit, vegetable, fish and peanut industries. A witness list can be found at the bottom of this release.
“A number of folks have expressed some real reservations about enacting mandatory country of origin labeling regulations,” said Hayes. “Today, the Livestock and Horticulture Subcommittee held this hearing in anticipation of the USDA publishing the proposed rule on how the industry and producers will have to comply with the COOL law when it becomes mandatory on September 30, 2004.
“Based on today’s testimony, it is very clear that there are still some real concerns from both the proponents and the opponents of COOL. Because of these concerns, I urge the USDA to release this rule as soon as possible so as to give as much time as possible for the industry to properly review it and make comments to USDA.”
The 2002 Farm Bill contained language that will require retailers to provide COOL on fresh fruits and vegetables, red meats, seafood, and peanuts beginning on September 30, 2004. Until then, the program is voluntary. The most recent action on COOL was the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2004 which includes a provision to delay implementation of the law for beef, lamb and pork for one year. During House consideration of the appropriations bill, there was an attempt to remove this provision, but that amendment was defeated. The Senate has not yet completed their version of an agriculture appropriations bill.
On June 26th the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on COOL during which they heard from Administration officials, producers, packers, processors and retailers.
• Mr. Jerry M. Place, President, Western Nut Company, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, on behalf of the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association, Snack Food Association, National Confectioners Association, and American Peanut Product Manufacturers, Inc.
• Mr. Mike Stuart, President, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Orlando, Florida
• Mr. John McClung, President, Texas Produce Association, Mission, Texas
• Mr. John Connelly, President, National Fisheries Institute, Arlington, Virginia
• Mr. Hugh Warren, Executive Vice President, Catfish Farmers of America, Indianola, Mississippi
• Mr. Gary Jay Kushner, Counsel, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington, D.C.
• Mr. R. Kurt Buckman, Director of Quality Systems Management, Birds Eye Foods, Rochester, New York, on behalf of National Food Processors Association