If country-of-origin labeling becomes reality, it could end the 12-year run of record U.S. pork exports, says National Pork Producers Council President Jon Caspers.

Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University agricultural economist, expects pigs from Canada to be docked $16.50 per head in the short-term if COOL is implemented.

Many Canadian packing plants are not running double shifts, but if COOL begins, those plants would probably add shifts. U.S. producers with business arrangements to feed out Canadian pigs will be hit hard. In terms of long-term impact, U.S. producers could lose export market share to Canadian pork as they will have more pork and more incentive to increase exports.

The law prohibits the USDA Secretary from imposing a mandatory animal identification system, but it does not prohibit retailers, processors or packers from requiring a full traceback system as a condition of doing business with their suppliers.

According to a study conducted by Hayes and Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, a full traceback system similar to the European Union's will increase U.S. farm-level production costs by $10.22 per head or about 10 percent. This increase does not account for export declines, which could run as high as 50 percent.

A major complaint against COOL is that it is unfair because it exempts poultry. Recently, an amendment to include poultry and goat meat has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It also would grandfather in any animals born prior to the mandatory program's implementation date (Sept. 30, 2004.) The proposal was forwarded to the House Ag Committee.

A study that many COOL supporters have pointed to as evidence that consumers are willing to pay more for labeling, is being widely misinterpreted say the authors. The study, titled "Country-of-Origin Labeling of Beef Products: U.S. Consumer Perceptions," was not meant to support or refute the law, the authors said.

It found that consumer interest in origin labeling ranked eighth out of 17 items– well behind freshness and food safety inspection. To view the fact sheet, visit http://dare.agsci.colostate.edu/extension/coolfacts.pdf.

The National Pork Producers Council has released several explanatory papers about COOL's potential impact on the U.S. pork industry. These can be found at www.nppc.org.

NPPC officials say that COOL does not explicitly place legal liabilities on pork producers, but it does imposes fines of $10,000 per violation per day on retailers who "willfully violate" the COOL legislation. Retailers are allowed 30 days after a violation to comply with COOL, but the law is unclear about what constitutes a new violation. Retailers have made it clear that they will require accurate information from their suppliers regarding meat products' origin. To read the complete report, go to  http://www.nppc.org/issue_brief/index.html