Committee Holds Hearing to Review Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling

May 26, 2003


Washington D.C.- The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing to review mandatory country or origin labeling. The Committee heard from the Administration, producers, packers, processors and retailers, now that they have had time to review the law and gauge its potential impact.

The 2002 Farm Bill contained language requiring that retailers provide, starting on September 30, 2004, country of origin labeling (COOL) on fresh fruits and vegetables, red meats, seafood, and peanuts. The program is voluntary until then.

Following the hearing Goodlatte said, “Testimony at today's hearing underscored that there is still a lack of consensus about what the law says, how it should be implemented, and whether or not it will ultimately do more harm than good.

“I have always favored a voluntary approach. This hearing reinforces my belief that we are moving forward with an idea that will have a negative impact on our producers and little or no benefit for those it was intended to help,” Goodlatte concluded.

“We heard many concerns expressed today regarding the implementation of COOL by both the proponents and opponents of COOL,” said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm. “From the testimony received, it is apparent that if we are going to have COOL, more work is needed on the current proposal.”

The Committee heard from three panels of witnesses. The first panel included Dr. Charles “Chuck” Lambert, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, United States Department of Agriculture, Ms. Nancy Bryson, General Counsel, United States Department of Agriculture and Dr. Keith Collins, Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture.

The second panel included, Mr. Thomas E. Stenzel, President and CEO, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, Dr. Alan Foutz, President, Colorado Farm Bureau, Mr. David J. Frederickson, President, National Farmers Union, Mr. Leo McDonnell, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder, R-CALF USA, Mr. Jon Caspers, President, National Pork Producers Council and Mr. Eric Davis, President, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The final panel featured Ms. Deborah R. White, Associate General Counsel for Regulatory Affairs, Food Marketing Institute, Mr. Ken Bull, Vice President for Cattle Procurement, Excel Corporation, Mr. Bruce T. Peterson, Jr., Senior Vice President/General Merchandise Manager – Perishable Foods, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Mr. Arthur “Ray” Walker, CEO, Patterson Frozen Foods, Mr. J.H. “Jay” Campbell, Jr., President and CEO, Associated Grocers, Inc., And Mr. Gary Ray, Executive Vice President of Refrigerated Foods, Hormel Foods Corporation.

Rep. Robin Hayes, Chairman of the Livestock and Horticulture Subcommittee, has indicated that his subcommittee will monitor this issue closely and hold other hearings in the future.