|USCA (February 18, 20008) - The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) today applauded Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer’s statement on Wednesday, February 13, that he expects to meet the deadline of September 30, 2008 for implementation of the country of origin labeling law (COOL). Schafer’s statement came during an appearance before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcomittee.
Committee Chairman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) told Schafer, "We need to make sure COOL is on track and on time" and that American consumers should have the opportunity "not to choose products that come from countries with bad safety records." DeLauro pointed out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was supposed to write a new rule for COOL implementation by January 17, but did not publish it.
"I expect to meet the deadline," Schafer responded. When DeLauro asked why implementation has taken so long, Schafer said, "I’ve been asking the same questions."
Schafer’s statements came during an appearance before the Subcommittee to explain the Bush Administration’s proposed budget recommendations for FY09.
In its FY2009 budget, the Bush Administration has proposed a fee on grocery stores to pay for implementation, but Congress has not reacted positively. The administration is proposing to charge each of the grocery stores across the country a "user fee", which would raise an estimated $9.5 billion annually. "We’ve been trying not to create additional costs," commented DeLauro, who also noted that retailers are already objecting to the fee. DeLauro said she hopes the fee proposal is not just another delay tactic.
"Cattle producers have waited patiently for the implementation of COOL," said Danni Beer, USCA Director and COOL Committee Chairman. "Repeated delays have frustrated producers as well as consumers. I am pleased that Secretary Schafer is resolved to implement meat labeling according to the law and according to the September 2008 deadline. USCA encourages Secretary Schafer to review the rules supporting fish and seafood labeling in order to understand how a country of origin labeling program can be implemented with least cost and least burden to producers, processors and retailers. We need not make this any more difficult than it needs to be. USCA stands ready to assist and advise the agency with its rule making."