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Country of origin labeling sparks debate
WashingtonPartly in response to questions and concerns raised by America's cattle producers through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it will conduct "listening and educational sessions" on country of origin labeling in key cattle-producing states.
Partly in response to questions and concerns raised by America's cattle producers through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it will conduct "listening and educational sessions" on country of origin labeling in key cattle-producing states.
Although specific dates, times and cities are yet to be determined, AgricultureSecretary Ann Veneman announced plans for sessions in California, Florida,Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania,Texas, Washington and Wyoming. USDA's objective: to gain more public inputand provide parties more information about the new country of origin labelinglaw. NCBA wanted these meetings too, called for them in a policy adoptedby its Board of Directors in February.
"Cattlemen in our state want to assure that any program implementedby the USDA is one that benefits producers and isn't run contrary to ourneeds," says John Swanz, president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association(MSGA). "This goes to show the importance and benefits of being involvedin and belonging to a strong national industry organization," he says.Directors from the MSGA introduced the resolution at the NCBA Conventionin Nashville asking USDA to conduct such sessions.
"NCBA has historically believed that the impacts of this programmust be carefully evaluated, and more information must be exchanged betweenpolicymakers and cattle producers prior to implementation of a mandatorycountry of origin program," says Bryan Dierlam, NCBA director of legislativeaffairs. "Cattle producers have asked for these informational exchanges,and USDA agrees that these forums will be valuable."
The Country of Origin Labeling Act was passed by Congress and signedinto law by the president as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Voluntary guidelineswere released in October 2002, and according to the new law, the rules becomemandatory on Sept. 30, 2004. Due to continuing concerns from producers aboutthe auditing, verification and compliance costs associated with the mandatorycountry of origin labeling program, a resolution passed by NCBA in Februarycalls for:
* Congressional hearings on implementation of the law.
* Regional USDA meetings on the law.
* Development of educational and informational tools for producers.
* Communication of these tools with assistance from state cattleassociations and related parties.
Details on the forums will be announced by the Agricultural MarketingService in the near future, Veneman adds.
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