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Bill Introduced In Senate Creates Voluntary Country-of-Origin Program for Meat

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A bi-partisan bill that creates a voluntary country-of-origin labeling (COL) program for meat was introduced today by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and 13 other Senators from both parties. The bill is a companion to a measure introduced in the House of Representatives recently by House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR), and more than 40 of their House colleages.

"Momentum is building on both sides of the Hill among Republicans and Democrats alike for a voluntary, workable COL bill that will maximize consumer choice and serve as a market-driven option for consumers,” said AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. Boyle noted that just weeks ago, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a measure, authored by House Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Henry Bonilla (R-TX) , that will delay COL for meat for one year, allowing time for Congress to act before the mandatory law takes effect. The final house vote on the delay was 240-187, and was supported by more than 60 agriculture groups.

“The up swell of grassroots support that led to passage of the delay of COL in the House demonstrates the strong and rapidly expanding public support for a voluntary program,” said Boyle. “If COL is something that consumers value, then the voluntary program will allow them to demand it in the marketplace and pay the premium for the new labeling information,” he added.

The voluntary bill would replace the burdensome and prescriptive mandatory program with a voluntary program that allows consumers to decide if the labeling is something they are willing to pay for. The Department of Agriculture estimates the mandatory program will cost meatpackers and processors more than $2.4 billion to implement in the first year alone.

A March 2005 poll by the International Food Information Council of 1,000 consumers found that 76% of consumers said there is no additional information not currently on a label that they would like to see. Less than one percent mentioned COL as something that should be on a label. “Market forces are the best determinant of whether or not consumers actually care to see and are willing to pay for this additional labeling,” noted Boyle.

Meat packers and producers have sought a market-driven COL program that keeps the pork and beef sectors competitive, domestically and internationally. Under current law, in the meat industry, only beef and pork would be subject to mandatory COL labeling, eroding their ability to compete with other animal proteins for consumer dollars. “A voluntary program will ensure that U.S. meat products are not put at a competitive disadvantage by a program that consumers really don’t want in the first place,” added Boyle.


For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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