WASHINGTON – National Farmers Union praised U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle for introducing new legislation that would implement country-of-origin labeling by the original Sept. 30, 2004, deadline.
The legislation comes as media reports indicate the USDA allowed the import of processed beef from Canada despite a public pledge from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to ban the import of Canadian beef products.
Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson said country-of-origin food labeling has become more urgent with reports the agriculture department has evaded the ban on Canadian processed beef.
Listen to consumers. “I’m extraordinarily concerned by the news that American consumers have been unknowingly exposed to Canadian beef products,” Daschle said. “We simply must not allow large meatpackers and the Bush administration to block consumer access to this basic information.”
In 2002, the president signed the farm bill that required USDA to implement country-of-origin labeling by September 2004. However, Republican leaders inserted language in last year’s omnibus appropriations bill delaying implementation of the labeling bill for two years – until September 2006.
Johnson co-sponsored. “Consumers and producers overwhelmingly support country-of-origin labeling for meat,” said Sen. Tim Johnson, the author of the country-of-origin labeling provision passed in the 2002 farm bill and co-sponsor of the new legislation.
“The only opposition to labeling is from House Republicans and the Bush Administration, which makes me wonder where their allegiances lie. They ought to get on the side of American producers and consumers, and out of the pocket of the big meatpackers.”
Voluntary now. Companies have had the ability to voluntarily label by petitioning USDA for permission to include country-of-origin information on their products since the mid-1990s. In addition, the farm bill provision that made COOL the law of the land allows companies to label voluntarily until the mandatory labeling is implemented.
The Senate has also expressed its support for mandatory country-of-origin labeling. Daschle called for timely implementation of the country-of-origin labeling amendment offered last November.
Now, he’s invoked a special rule that will place the bill directly on the Senate calendar.
“We need to pass our bill to reinstate the implementation date for COOL as soon as possible,” Daschle said.
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