Rep. Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill in the House that would “fix” various problems he claims are associated with the country-of-origin labeling law included in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The American Meat Institute analyzed the bill and pronounced it deeply flawed. The Peterson “bill would do little to address the meatpacking industry’s concerns about the current law,” says Mark Dopp, AMI senior vice president for regulatory affairs and general counsel. “The bill would effectively preclude meatpackers from being able to confirm that the country-of-origin information they receive from livestock suppliers and provide to customers is accurate.”

Despite that limitation, a meatpacker’s exposure to a civil penalty would remain, Dopp says, even when a producer gives the packer inaccurate country-of-origin information.

Here’s a brief summary of the Peterson bill’s key differences from the current COOL law:

  •   The burden of compliance would apply to retailers and suppliers of covered commodities, such as meatpackers.
  •   The bill would delete the provision prohibiting USDA from using a mandatory animal identification system to verify COOL and also would delete language directing USDA to examine other federal programs as possible models for COOL.
  • USDA would be ordered to “carry out a program” allowing producer self-certification of the covered commodities.
  • Retailers and packers would be prohibited from imposing indemnification provisions as a condition of sale.
  • The bill would strike the current law’s audit verification provisions and require USDA to use existing records, such as inventory and tax records, for compliance verification.
  •   Third-party audits or verification of producers to determine compliance regarding livestock origin would be prohibited.

American Meat Institute