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DAldredge's Journal: GOP seeks to repeal food labeling law 9

Journal by DAldredge

All I can say is what the hell where they thinking?

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Cattlemen split over country-of-origin requirement
The Associated Press
Updated: 6:15 p.m. ET Nov. 17, 2004

WASHINGTON - Telling consumers where their meat, fruit and vegetables came from seemed such a good idea to U.S. ranchers and farmers in competition with imports that Congress two years ago ordered the food industry to do it. But meatpackers and food processors fought the law from the start, and newly emboldened Republicans now plan to repeal it before Thanksgiving.

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As part of the 2002 farm bill, country-of-origin labeling was supposed to have gone into effect this fall. Congress last year postponed it until 2006. Now, House Republicans are trying to wipe it off the books as part of a spending bill they plan to finish this month.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he expected the Senate to agree to repealing the measure, whose main champion two years ago was Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

"I can't find any real opposition to doing exactly what we want to do here," Blunt said.

President Bush never supported mandatory labeling. Chances for repealing the law improved when Daschle, still his party's leader in the Senate, was defeating for re-election Nov. 2. Daschle indicated through a spokesman this week that he probably will not fight the repeal.

Those who want the repeal say the labeling system is so expensive that it far outweighs any benefit to consumers. The Agriculture Department has estimated the cost could range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in the first year alone.

"Everybody realized it was going to cost a lot of money, and ranchers were going to have to bear most of that," said Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., chairman of a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittee on the issue.

Food processors and other opponents of mandatory labeling say they are amenable to voluntary labels.

Grocery Manufacturers Association spokeswoman Stephanie Childs cited the government's voluntary standards for labeling organic food and said, "That's the sort of thing we should be looking toward."

Voluntary system created
Supporters of the labeling requirement says opponents want the repeal so producers will not have to spend money getting ready to follow the law. The House Agriculture Committee approved legislation this year to substitute a voluntary system for the current law.

The issue divides cattlemen and other livestock producers. Many of the bigger livestock and feedlot operations, as well as food processors, do not want mandatory labeling.

Producers in favor of mandatory labels believe consumers will prefer U.S.-grown food over foreign imports. The law requires companies to put country-of-origin labels on meat, vegetables and fruit.

"We really feel that country-of-origin labeling is one of the key things we need to keep ourselves competitive in that market. I understand the trade-offs," said Doran Junek, a rancher in Brewster, Kan. Junek also is executive director of the Kansas Cattlemen's Association, an affiliate of R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America.

Consumer groups say the issue is whether buyers have a right to know where their food came from.

"When nutrition labeling was suggested by advocates 25 years ago, the industry kept saying, `Oh, we can't do that,'" said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy for the Consumer Federation of America. "Look, they've done it. They love it. Consumers use it."

The wrangling does not affect fish because Congress did not include fish last year when it delayed the mandatory labeling. Fresh and frozen fish will be required to carry labels beginning in April.
© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
redistributed.

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GOP seeks to repeal food labeling law

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  • What the hell was who thinking? Daschle or the GOP?
    Pretty sure you meant the authors of this law.
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    • I meant the GOP. Should have been more clear.
      • Interesting. I am curious as to why you think the Federal Government needs to regulate how the country of origin is labeled.

        If it is in the best interests of the US farmers and ranchers to appeal to the nationalism of consumers then they should be free to do so. But why should they be forced to spend money on it if they do not see the benefit?

        I just dont an outpouring of consumer demand for it either and if there was I would only imagine that some intelligent advertising firm would hit on it.
        • Because almost every other product sold in the USA has to be labeled with its country of origin and I feel I have the right to know where the food I buy is produced as not all countries have sanitary standards as high as the United States and Europe has.

          If every other country we imported food from had the same standards we do it would be different, but they do not. I also do not understand how it possibly cost 1+ Billion USD to label with the country of origin, anytime when people inflate numbers like tha
          • Yeah but there are EXTENSIVE checks and regulations on all food imported into the US. My mother used to work at the FTC and handled many cases involving imports of fish and other meat from overseas- she told me that companies selling food to the USA to be redistributed are required to meet stringent sanitary and safety guidelines- far exceeding those required by American food producers.
            • To name just one case where those checks fail I suggest you google on the green onion'd from Mexico that killed some people 6-12 months ago. The root cause was determined to be unsantary growing conditions.

              BTW, it is the FDA that regulated food imports in regards to safety issues.
              • The FDA imposes the regulations/routine checks, however the FTC has a hand in responding to and investigating complaints in all oversees imports/exports.

                Ok, sure there are going to be some flaws in the system. It breaks down in the USA as well. The fact is, the FDA is going to let things through that shouldnt be, whether they are American produced or otherwise. I agree that something should be fixed in the system- perhaps even more stringent requirements for imports? Whatever it is- American agriculture ha
                • The funny thing is that it isn't the US farmers who are against this, its those that import food from other countries with weaker standards that are against this.

                  And it doesn't cost that much to put a Produced/Made/Grown in label on something.
                  • I know it would matter to me if the farm that was growing the produce I eat used sewage effluent to irrigate its crops like is illegally done in some parts of Mexico.

                    I'd rather buy Californian produce please.

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