A total of 95 agriculture-related organizations signed on to a joint letter to several U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee leaders urging them to oppose any amendments to weaken or repeal the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (M-COOL) law put in place by the 2002 Farm Bill.
The coalition sending the letter calls itself "Americans for Country of Origin Labeling" (ACOL) and collectively represents more than 50 million U.S. voters.
The letter states, in part: "American consumers and producers have time and again voiced their united support for mandatory COOL. Those involved with the production of meat, fruits, vegetables, peanuts and seafood remain committed to mandatory COOL as do more than 80% of consumers. Replacing the 2002 Farm Billâ€™s mandatory COOL program with a voluntary program does not and will not provide consumers the benefit of knowing from where their food comes, nor does it allow U.S. producers a new marketing opportunity."
The ACOL coalition was the driving force behind the successful passage of M-COOL in the 2002 Farm Bill.
Discussions for fiscal year 2005 are scheduled for the Appropriations Conference Committee during this "lame duck" week on Capitol Hill. There is a possibility that opponents of M-COOL may attach an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill to either delay COOL, or replace it with a voluntary labeling bill.
Once the Omnibus Appropriations Bill reaches both houses of Congress for a vote, the bill will likely be accompanied by very strict rules that will require the bill to be accepted or rejected in its entirety â€“ without any changes or additions.
Congressional supporters of M-COOL are unlikely to vote down an appropriations bill that funds the government. As Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says, "You couldn't let one thing in an omnibus bill shut down government," he says. It wouldn't stop Grassley from voting for the bill, even if mandatory COOL is weakened, he explains.