2013-03-14 / Ag News

NDFU applauds work with COOL

North Dakota Farmers Union and National Farmers Union are commending a recently formed bipartisan coalition of senators, led by Jon Tester (D-Mont.), in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to work with consumers, ranchers and meatpackers to ensure that American families know where their food comes from.

North Dakota Farmers Union President Elwood “Woody” Barth commented, “It is encouraging to see senators like John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp support the process for country-of-origin labeling (COOL).As an organization, we have fought for 20 years for COOL and we believe it should be administered in all instances. We will work hard to make sure COOLis fully implemented.”

NFU President Roger Johnson added, “We thank Senator Tester for his work in garnering support in the Senate in regard to COOL compliance. Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from and U.S. farmers and ranchers want to be able to tell them.”

The two South Dakota senators, Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R), are also part of the coalition.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently required the USDA to adjust its rules requiring American retailers to clearly label where meat was raised and processed. The WTO said that while the United States can require meat labeling, current U.S. COOL rules do not meet WTO standards. The WTO has given the United States until May 23, 2013, to bring its COOL rules into compliance.

“USDA and USTR should take even stronger regulatory actions to make sure that COOL provides meaningful information about the origins of meat and other products,” Johnson said.

“Congress intended that COOL provide as much information as possible about the origin of all meat cuts to consumers,” the senators wrote to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “Some flexibility is needed, but such flexibility cannot come at the expense of providing reliable information to families about the national origin of meat products.”

The bipartisan coalition also said that USDA should host a public comment period to allow agriculture workers and consumers to weigh in on any new proposals.

Others of the 31 senators who signed the letter include: John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (DConn.), Barbara Boxer (DCalif.), Sherrod Brown (DOhio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (DOre.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tom Udall (DN. M.), David Vitter (R-La.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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