Lawmakers bargained to block country-of-origin labeling for two years, as part of agreements for a $390 billion spending bill, according to the Associated Press.

The two-year delay on COOL will apply to meats, produce and farm-raised fish. The delay represented a victory for the Bush administration, grocery stores, meat packers and processors. Producers also win, as costs of the program are likely to be passed back to the producer.

The new labels were imposed by the 2002 farm bill. The House had voted last summer to block the labeling requirements from taking effect, which they were to do by September 2004. But the Senate voted to keep the COOL on track.

The move comes after strong pressure from U.S. grocers, food processors, meat packers and many farm groups, which say that the requirement would impose expensive new reporting burdens. The measure would have required grocers maintain for up to two years records of the origin of foods they have sold.

Foreign countries that are large exporters to the United States, particularly Canada, have opposed the provisions as well, fearing they would raise consumer prices and harm sales in the United States. USDA earlier estimated that the program would cost as much as $3.9 billion to implement in the first year alone, with little benefits.

The measure has been tacked on to an “omnibus” spending bill, which must pass to keep the government operating, and has historically been used by Congress to push through controversial measures.

Associated Press, Financial Times