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Is Buyer's Remorse Setting In? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 24 July 2008
AFF Sentinel Vol.5#32

Activists Asking Government To Go Easy On Them Now

Activist groups significantly responsible for America's upcoming disruptive mandatory Country-of- Origin Labeling (mCOOL) program have sent a letter to a federal agency asking it to adhere to amendments other groups pleaded for in mitigating damage from the regulatory juggernaut.

The groups asked the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) to keep the "spirit and intent of Congress' new amendments" in USDA-AMS regulations due soon. The irony is, the 2008 amendments to the original 2002 mCOOL law were designed to soften damage from the 2002 law these very groups supported in its strictest form. R- CALF, National Farmers Union, Consumer Federation of America and Food and Water Watch sent the plea to OMB. OMB is involved in the rulemaking process with USDA-AMS. Suddenly, the groups are concerned about "burdensome or stringent" regulations. Coming from those who asked the government for these regulations and costs, that's fascinating.

Meanwhile, the nation's food industry is living through a perfect demonstration of why these groups' pet government solution ---mCOOL - will do little to solve the food safety problems they claim to be concerned about. After 14 weeks of investigation, the FDA has yet to be able to definitively allocate blame for salmonella infections among tomatoes, peppers (one known guilty pepper from Mexico but no confirmation of where it was infected) or some other produce. A label indicating which country any of the produce came from would not have helped anything.

The mCOOL labeling on meat packages will be nearly worthless in food safety terms, because it will not identify individual animals, nor identify when and where an animal could have been exposed to infectious animals or diseases. Yet the proponents of mCOOL legislation - both inside and outside the government - are misleading consumers into thinking a country label on a piece of meat will provide them with useful, protective food safety information.

Incredibly, to make an irrelevant law even weaker and the practicality more ridiculous, the activist groups are actually proposing that the government accept the lack of a brand identifying an animal as from a foreign country as sufficient proof that it is of U.S. origin, without documentation. The letter requested that "farmers and ranchers be allowed to attest to the presence or absence of import markings as evidence of their animal's origin" and animals without a foreign import marking "should be presumed to have a U.S. country of origin." That should mightily help disease investigators.

Do you suppose groups like R-CALF and NFU are starting to get questions from producers and feeders about what information and paperwork packers and retailers are going to have to require of feeders when animals are sold? Retailers - and their lawyers and insurance carriers - are not likely to take the substantial risk of mislabeling meat sold to consumers with such casual assurances as, "Yep, he doesn't have a `CAN' or `MEX' on him, so he must be U.S." Neither will USDA. Yet, the activists supporting this fiasco are already backtracking on the burden on producers.

The "powerful opponents" the news release refers to as opposing the original 2002 mCOOL language really refers to businessmen throughout the food production chain who truly understood the worthlessness of mCOOL as a food safety tool. These people understood the huge disruptions and costs such a pervasive system would impose on everyone in the animal food production chain - both inside and outside America. R-CALF maintained this law would cost cattlemen nothing, while actually hoping to profit from the cost and compliance foreign livestock producers would incur -- a perfect example of cutting your nose off to spite your face. R-CALF doesn't understand that costs will be passed back to producers.

USDA officials told us the regulations will be no more burdensome than the law requires. The agency realizes the law will do little for food safety and certainly will punish livestock industries already suffering from high fuel and feed costs and softened demand from economically stressed consumers. There are people within this USDA who do understand the food production business - the kind of people the activists promoting mCOOL have consistently berated as unfit for government service because they had real-world agribusiness experience.

The activist producers concerned about the mCOOL burden can likely be confident the officials they have complained about will mitigate what damage they can. But no one can save the animal food production chain -- nor really help consumers' food safety information -- with the mCOOL law on the books.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 12 September 2008 )
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