Wisconsin Farmers Union said the U.S. Department of Agriculture's interpretation of the 2008 Farm Bill's country of origin labeling provision leaves a loophole that will circumvent the intent of the labeling law.
The farm bill language explicitly states that animals exclusively born, raised and processed in the United States cannot be labeled under the multiple country category (category 2). Now USDA said they will allow packers, who do not wish to segregate their animals based on origin, to label exclusively American products under the multiple country category.
"Farmers Union has long awaited COOL implementation. We have worked to create provisions that would please farmers and consumers, and accommodate packer concerns," Wisconsin Farmers Union President Sue Beitlich said. "USDA has chosen to ignore the clear intent of the law."
Farmers Union was a key player in reaching the compromise agreement that paved the way for COOL's implementation. The agreement creates four labeling categories:
1. Products exclusively born, raised and processed in the United States will be labeled as a U.S. product;
2. Products from animals that were not exclusively born, raised and processed in the United States and not imported for immediate slaughter will be labeled with all countries in which the animal may have been born, raised or processed;
3. An animal that was imported for immediate processing may be labeled as a product of the importing country and the United States; and
4. Animals that were born, raised and processed in a foreign country will be labeled as a product of the country of origin.
"Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from, especially whether it originates from U.S. producers. Farmers Union is asking the USDA to clarify its ruling on this matter," Beitlich said.
Despite COOL's inclusion in the 2002 Farm Bill, the provision was never implemented. COOL is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1.