USDA released its department's final rule for mandatory country-of-origin labeling, and National Farmers Union, a long-time proponent of the labeling law, is disappointment with the results.

"Despite the strong support from Congress, and demands from consumers and producers alike, USDA has chosen to implement COOL in a manner that does not meet Congress' clear intent, leaving loopholes in place for those willing to circumvent the law," says Tom Buis, NFU president. "The final rule still contains a loophole that would allow meat packers to use a multiple countries, or North American Free-Trade Agreement label, rather than labeling U.S. products as products of the United States."

He contends that such action is misleading to consumers. "The intent was to provide country-of-origin labeling, not trade-agreement-origin of labeling. If a product is exclusively born, raised and processed in the United States it should be labeled as such," Buis says. "USDA takes great liberty with the definition of 'processed products,' effectively leaving several food products without labels and denying consumers the knowledge of their food's country of origin."

NFU and Buis do approve of USDA's decision to recognize and accept producer affidavits to verify compliance.

"COOL was effective Sept. 30, 2008 and NFU had urged the department to withhold final judgment until COOL's six-month trial period had concluded. We will continue to monitor the implementation of COOL and if not implemented properly will not hesitate to go to Congress for changes until COOL is implemented in the best interest of consumers, farmers and ranchers," says Buis. "COOL is a vital marketing tool and it is imperative it be implemented properly."

Source: National Farmers Union