Three U.S. senators say it's premature to write off country-of-origin labeling yet. The House has already voted to deny USDA any funding for the mandatory version of COOL, originally scheduled to begin by Sept. 30, 2004. That in essence would delay implementation for at least a year.

However, the farm-based senators believe they can generate the votes needed to get mandatory COOL rolling 2004. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), all individually told the Associated Press that the House vote was a temporary setback, and that they believe attempts to repeal COOL will fail in the Senate.

"We have a bipartisan coalition of Senators who are willing to stand up to the big meatpackers and fight for family farmers and ranchers," Daschle said. "It would be completely irresponsible to reverse course and kill country-of-origin labeling. The recent BSE scare in Canada is one more reminder that the new labeling law can serve as an important marketing and informational tool."

The battle to defeat or stall the implimentation of mandatory COOL in the Senate will likely be harder because there are very dedicated "farm-based" senators, many who carry enough weight to influence this measure. Many of those senators also perceive the issue as being a big vs. small issue, whether the "big" applies to farms or packer/processors. The non-farm senators will see COOL as a consumer information/food safety issue, especially in light of Canada's BSE scare.

Associated Press,