USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service will take $3.18 million out of its Specialty Crop Block Grant budget, which totals $49 million to help pay for the country-of-origin labeling program implementation in fiscal 2009.

USDA Secretary Ed Shafer sent a letter to Congress updating members on USDA activities, which included an outline of the interchange transfer. The funds transfer is provided for in the 2008 Farm Bill.

This step will allow the COOL program to move forward to become fully operational during the current fiscal year. Among the implementation plans, the program is expected to conduct a retailer survey, accelerate and expand training for State employees so that retail surveillance reviews and supplier audits can begin by the second half of the fiscal year, begin to develop an audit tracking system, conduct outreach and educational activities for affected parties, and hire 10 temporary employees to administer the program.

The National Meat Association noted that with the funds transfer, "It is clear that AMS plans to implement COOL as scheduled with enforcement for meat products beginning in April."