USDA officials say they will meet the Sept. 30 deadline to outline the country-of-origin labeling regulations. Country-of-origin labeling is part of the 2002 Farm Bill. It will involve meat, produce, peanuts and fish products, which will carry a voluntary country-of-origin label, with eventual mandatory adoption.

Only items raised and processed in the United States can be labeled as a U.S. product.

According to a Reuters' news report, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service officials say the agency plans to publish a final proposal for the voluntary labels in the next week or two. There will then be a 10-day period, which will allos consumers, farm groups and food companies to comment on the proposal before it's finalized. Country-of-origin labeling will become mandatory after two years.

This particular section of the six-year Farm Bill has sparked much controversy, with various food-industry participants taking strong pro or con positions. The Bush Administration has opposed country-of-origin labeling. Several U.S. trading partners also are unhappy with the action.

Among the concerns that U.S. food-industry participants have raised is cost– who will pay– and how will label accuracy be verified.

Regardless of the guidelines presented later this month, USDA officials say they will revisit and revise the details before the mandatory phase kicks in. They will use the lessons learned through the two years of voluntary labeling to decide what the final regulation will look like.