Voluntary country-of-origin labeling (COOL) proponents are trying to build support for House legislation that amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to direct the Secretary of Ag to establish a voluntary program.
The bill, H.R. 4576, was introduced June 15 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Ranking Minority Member Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, to provide a market-based approach to COOL. Among 347 food groups including the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), American Meat Institute (AMI), United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association (UFFVA) have voiced their support for the legislation.
The goal of the bill is to amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a voluntary country-of-origin labeling program for fruits, vegetables, meat (including beef, pork, veal, lamb) and seafood. This market-based program is designed to create a brand for "products of the U.S." and encourage consumers to choose American products at their supermarkets.
"Americaâ€™s pork producers have been working for years in support of a labeling program that adds value to U.S. pork products," says NPPC Vice President Joy Philippi, a pork producer from Bruning, Neb. "Weâ€™re excited about this effort to inform consumers while giving pork producers another opportunity to build demand for their products."
Over 75% of produce offered for sale in U.S. retail stores is already labeled with consumer information on a sticker or package, which can be adapted to include origin labeling. "We want consumers to have useful information about where their food comes from," says Kathy Means, vice president of government relations at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). "This legislation puts origin information in the grocery stores and promotes American foods in a way that is supported by producer groups nationwide."
UFFVA President Tom Stenzel agrees, noting that "the fruit and vegetable industry is committed to providing consumers the information they want about our products. With oversight by the Department of Agriculture to measure our results, and comprehensive reporting back to Congress, this legislation will help us fulfill our commitment to consumers to provide them with country-of-origin information."