Ag-Consumer Coalition Wants ‘05 Funding For COOL

Is American Farm Bureau ‘too cool’ to climb on the wagon? Does it sap ag coalition impact? An analysis. John Vogel

Published on: Apr 13, 2004

Last week, a letter went to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives, calling for the repeal of the two-year implementation delay for the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). The letter was endorsed by 128 farm groups, rural advocacy organizations and consumer advocacy groups.

As usual, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) was not on the list, despite its general support of COOL and COOL funding. In the past, AFBF officials have noted that the nation’s largest farm organization prefers to work the halls of Congress via other means.

But this is not a good time for "holes" to be perceived in agriculture’s seamless support for COOL immediate funding. Also last week, AFBF Chief Economist Bob Young told ag leaders in Pennsylvania, "This time next year, we’ll (the U.S. government) be facing huge budget deficits and be faced with taking funds away from agriculture."

The reality may be "now or never." No government program is enforceable without funding. So there is a clear sense of urgency to congressional support and cosponsorship of the Country-of-Origin Labeling Enhancement Act (H.R. 3993) which ensures that labeling is implemented by Sept. 30, 2004.

Here are the main points of the letter sent by the ag and consumer coalition called Americans for Country of Origin Labeling (ACOL):

Dear member of Congress

We write today representing 50 millions of Americans to request your support and cosponsorship of H.R. 3993, to ensure labeling is implemented by Sept. 30, 2004, as scheduled in the farm bill. The ACOL coalition maintains its commitment to seeing COOL implemented on time for fruits, vegetables, peanuts, red meat and fish. Support for labeling remains strong across the country among producers and consumers.

President Bush stated in a recent speech, "I want the world to 'buy America.' The best products on any shelf anywhere in the world says, 'Made in the USA'." We agree with the president and look forward to working with him to ensure products on U.S. grocery store shelves say, "Made in the USA" by this fall.

The Bono-Hooley COOL Enhancement Act restores the implementation date back to September 2004, eases the recordkeeping and fine burden on retailers and allows for the labeling program to work simultaneously with a national animal identification program once such a program is operational.

For a list of ACOL organizations, click HERE.

Send comments to John Vogel at jvogel@farmprogress.com.