A recent study by university ag economists and law professors found implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling will benefit consumers with minimal costs to the food industry or consumers.

The report also called into question the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service's cost estimates for COOL.

"This report clearly shows that consumers want origin labeling," said Art Jaeger of the Consumer Federation of America. "In addition, surveys show that consumers are willing to pay more to be certain they are receiving U.S. meat and produce."

The AMS estimated costs for the program at almost $2 billion in the first year for record keeping and other tasks. The economists said the USDA figures were "substantially overblown due to errors in both legal and economic assumptions."

"We found USDA's original record keeping cost estimate to be outrageously inflated, with the real costs being 90 to 95 percent less" said Dr. John VanSickle of the International Trade and Policy Center at the University of Florida. "If passed on to consumers, that translates to less than one cent per pound for foods covered by the labeling law."

Individuals from five universities collaborated on the study to identify real-world challenges and benefits of COOL.

The complete text of the report is online at: http://www.iatpc.fred.ifas.ufl.edu/docs/policy_brief/PBTC_03-5.pdf. It may also be accessed via a link at www.americansforlabeling.org, the Web site for the Americans for Country of Origin Labeling Coalition.

U.S. Newswire