Waco, TX (February 12, 2003) - Texas Farmers Union (TFU) President Wes Sims Urged Congress to require a study that would show the true costs and benefits of the country-of-origin food labeling law included in the 2002 farm bill.
In a letter to Congress this week TFU and 100 other farm and consumer groups, asked House and Senate members to uphold the congressional intent of the new labeling law despite attempts to weaken the law in implementation
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released unsupported and inflated data on the costs of the labeling provision. The groups are concerned the data may be used to undermine support for the mandatory country-of-origin labeling law, which is to go in effect by September 2004. The new law directs grocery stores to label fresh meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and peanuts with the country in which it was grown and processed.
"USDA's data fails to include a benefits analysis or recognize existing government regulations and standard marketing practices that can be used to implement the new law," said Sims. "A true costs and benefits study should be performed to ensure this program is implemented in a practical way that benefits consumers and producers."
The initial Agriculture Department report also implied that country-of-origin labeling would additionally burden livestock producers with costly and time-consuming identification systems. "This is a country-of-origin labeling law, not a farm-of-origin law," said Sims. "The law specifically prohibits the agriculture secretary from imposing a mandatory identification system on producers and, instead, encourages the use of existing certification programs."
Sims is encouraging farmers, ranchers and consumers to ask their elected officials to work with USDA to make sure the country-of-origin labeling law is implemented with the original intent of Congress. Additional information and a sample letter is available at Texas Farmers Union's Web site, www.texasfarmersunion.org
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