Date of this Version
When President Bush signed the Farm Bill on May 13, 2002, much of the focus was on the new commodity and conservation programs and how they had changed relative to the 1996 Farm Bill. However, near the end of the Farm Bill was some language that has become one of the most contentious issues today.
Title X, Section 10816 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill) addressed country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules for beef, lamb, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables, and peanuts. The legislation called for voluntary guidelines to be implemented no later than September 30, 2002 with mandatory regulations due on September 30, 2004. As the voluntary guidelines were proposed and implemented, and, as the mandatory deadline approaches, the focus on COOL has intensified, with debate over the proposed rules, the potential benefits, and the potential costs.
Many of the questions over COOL will remain unsettled until USDA proposes final rules for implementation of the mandatory provisions of COOL. When and if that will happen is a question itself, pending legislative action in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip appropriations for COOL implementation for fiscal year 2004 (October 2003 - September 2004).
The following discussion focuses on the background and issues involved with COOL and the impacts as they affect the livestock and meat industry, particularly beef and pork. While a review of the available literature will address many of the questions being debated, there are very few definitive answers at this point in time. Instead, the discussion proceeds with an assessment of the key policy questions yet to be resolved.