There is much information and plenty of debate about the prospect of country-of-origin labeling for U.S. meat and produce. Among the points in question is whether COOL really will become mandatory by Sept. 30, 2004.

For now the law is voluntary, and it addresses the labeling of meat, fish, produce and peanuts sold in the United States. It’s targeted to inform retail consumers about the country in which the product was born, raised and processed.

While the law clearly targets food retailers, COOL requires “any person engaged in the business of supplying a specified commodity to a retailer” to provide documentation. That probably means it will impact producers, growers, handlers, packers, processor and importers.

Ron Hale, southwest-area livestock production specialist for Kansas State University Research and Extension, has helped develop a Web site designed to provide information that is updated weekly or even daily on COOL and its potential effects for U.S. livestock producers.

“We are not trying to encourage people to take one side of the debate or the other,” says Hale. “Our intent is to present the information objectively, so people can review it and determine what they must do in their operation.”

The Web site address is http:// www.oznet.ksu.edu/ansi/cool/.

Hale hopes the Web site will make receiving updated information on COOL easy for producers. The site also has feedback links and discussion listservs available to everyone.

For questions about the Web site itself, producers can e-mail webmaster Dan Scott at Kansas State at dscott@oznet.ksu.edu