The National Farmers Union (NFU) commended a recently formed bipartisan coalition of Senators, led by Jon Tester of Montana, in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to work with consumers, ranchers and meatpackers to ensure that American families know where their food comes from.
"We thank Senator Tester for his work in garnering support in the Senate in regards to COOL compliance,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from and U.S. farmers and ranchers want to be able to tell them.”
The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently required the USDA to adjust its rules requiring American retailers to clearly label where meat was raised and processed. The WTO said that while the United States can require meat labeling, current U.S. Country-of-Origin labeling (COOL) rules do not meet WTO standards. The WTO has given the United States until May 23, 2013 to bring its COOL rules into compliance.
"USDA and USTR should take even stronger regulatory actions to make sure that COOL provides meaningful information about the origins of meat and other products," said Johnson.
"Congress intended that COOL provide as much information as possible about the origin of all meat cuts to consumers," the senators wrote to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. "Some flexibility is needed, but such flexibility cannot come at the expense of providing reliable information to families about the national origin of meat products."
The bipartisan coalition also said that USDA should host a public comment period to allow agriculture workers and consumers to weigh in on any new proposals.