Associations for the nation’s leading pork, beef, seafood and produce producers, along with food retailers and wholesalers, have agreed to craft a program to provide consumers country of origin information about these products.
Groups involved in the project are: the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Fisheries Institute, Food Marketing Institute and National Grocers Association.
The group plans to hold a summit in the near future with other segments of the food industry to develop a consensus voluntary labeling program. Producers and retailers are committed to developing a cost-effective replacement to the program mandated in the 2002 farm bill.
The associations aim to finalize a labeling program by this spring, involving as many segments of the food industry as possible. They will then work with Congress to include the program in legislation that replaces the mandatory labeling law.
USDA estimates that in the first year alone the mandatory law will cost up to $3.9 billion - costs that will be passed along to consumers or absorbed by producers and retailers in the low-profit food business, according to the industry groups.
“We don’t need to create a bureaucratic nightmare that will drive small retailers and producers out of business,” says FMI president and CEO Tim Hammonds. “Food retailers have long promoted U.S. brands and their region, state or farm of origin. This initiative can build on these efforts and accomplish the same goal as the mandatory labeling law without the baggage of excessive compliance costs.”
NPPC president Jon Caspers, a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa, says pork
producers support a workable, voluntary country of origin labeling program that would include a national animal identification system.
“This would protect the health of the U.S. livestock herd and ensure greater confidence
in our food supply,” says Caspers. “Due to current low hog prices, it’s critical to increase the demand for pork. A voluntary program will be available to all segments, including restaurants and food service, and will reward those who choose to participate.”
Source: National Pork Producers Council