USDA's listening sessions  regarding the country-of-origin-labeling law drew standing-room-only crowds. The sessions in May were held in: Raleigh, N.C.; Austin, Texas; Pasco, Wash.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Kearney, Neb.; and Orlando, Fla

Unofficially, the most comments opposed the new law. In Raleigh, about 18 of 20 speakers either opposed the law or were apprehensive about its impact. In Austin, 50 people commented, with two-thirds opposing or voicing serious concern about the law's impact. Again in Pasco, about two-thirds of 50 comments opposed COOL; and in Kansas City, half of the speakers opposed the law.

Producers (and producer organizations) remain divided over the issue. Opponents cite the increased cost and burdensome recordkeeping that will be required. Supporters claim consumers want COOL, and that it will provide American products with an advantage.

Packers and retailers also provided comments, which seemed to unanimously oppose COOL. Again, the added cost of compliance and recordkeeping were the major objections.

Six sessions will be held this month: June 4, Cody, Wyo.; June 6, Billings, Mont.; June 12, Sacramento, Calif.; June 19, Baton Rouge, La.; June 24, St. Paul, Minn.; and June 26, Lancaster, Pa.

Additional information about COOL is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool/. You also can find USDA's labeling presentation, recent USDA testimony on COOL, examples of records that may be used for verification purposes, statement from Packers and Stockyards Act regarding COOL, Federal Register notices and comments related to COOL.