USDA Issues Guidelines for Interim Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2002 The U.S. Department of Agriculture today issued Interim Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling guidelines for certain commodities as required in the 2002 Farm Bill.
"Under the guidelines, fresh and frozen muscle cuts of beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and peanuts may be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin," said Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator A.J. Yates. "These guidelines provide uniform criteria for participating retailers."
Food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges or similar enterprises selling prepared food to the public, are not covered.
Under the guidelines, a retailer can label a covered commodity with "United States Country of Origin" if certain criteria are met. For beef, the covered commodities must be derived exclusively from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States, including animals that were born and raised in Alaska or Hawaii and transported for a period not to exceed 60 days through Canada to the United States and slaughtered in the United States. Covered commodities for lamb and pork must be derived exclusively from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. Farm-raised fish and shellfish covered commodities must be derived exclusively from fish or shellfish hatched, harvested and processed in the United States. Covered commodities for wild fish and shellfish must be derived exclusively from fish or shellfish either harvested in the waters of the United States or by a U.S. flagged vessel and processed in the United States or aboard a U.S. flagged ship. And, fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and peanut covered commodities must be derived exclusively from produce or peanuts grown, packed and if applicable, processed in the United States.
The guidelines also provide guidance for products of mixed origin including products produced both in foreign markets and in the United States as well as labeling for blended or mixed products.
The Department also is required by the 2002 Farm Bill to promulgate a regulation for mandatory country of origin labeling by Sept. 30, 2004. Development of this mandatory regulation will begin in April 2003 and will likely be based on these voluntary guidelines as well as related input. Submissions on the utility of the voluntary guidelines are encouraged during the next 180 days.
The full text of the voluntary guidelines will be published in the Oct. 11 Federal Register. The voluntary guidelines, related Farm Bill provisions, and questions and answers on the voluntary guidelines can be found at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/COOL.
Submissions on the voluntary guidelines may be submitted to: Eric Forman, Associate Deputy Administrator, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, at email@example.com, or William Sessions, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock and Seed Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|NCBA Lauds Interim Voluntary Guidelines as "Good Start"
Washington, D.C. (October 9, 2002) The U.S. Department of Agriculture's interim voluntary country of origin labeling guidelines provide a good foundation for the development of a market-driven country of origin labeling program, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
"We believe these interim guidelines are a good start towards addressing some of the complexities surrounding this issue. The USDA should be commended for proposing the guidelines and for allowing a 180 day reaction and comment period. This process allows various audiences in our industry to assess mandatory COL labeling before it goes into effect in September 2004," says Bryan Dierlam, NCBA's director of Legislative Affairs.
Under the guidelines, fresh and frozen muscle cuts of beef may be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin. The guidelines provide uniform criteria for participating retailers. A retailer can label a commodity with "United States Country of Origin" if certain criteria are met.
"We understand that there will be a cost associated with compliance of the labeling guidelines and we certainly don't want to inflict undue costs on the industry," says Wythe Willey, Iowa producer and NCBA president. "But if the consumer decides they find country-of-origin information valuable, and they're willing to pay the extra cost for U.S.-labeled beef, then that information should be provided."
"It is important to remember that these are voluntary guidelines, and there is opportunity for all parties to comment on how to improve and modify this system before the mandatory guidelines are developed. We can get a sense of the success of the program, and then give suggestions to the USDA on how these guidelines could improve, before the program becomes mandatory," says Dierlam.
In Other News...
Veneman Announces Drought Payments To Livestock Producers To Begin This Week
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2002 Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced that Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) payments will begin today for cattle, sheep, goat and buffalo producers in counties that have received primary disaster designation due to drought.
"Sign up for the LCP began just last week and producers will begin to receive payments as early as today," said Veneman. "The Bush Administration continues to use every available tool to provide disaster assistance to Americas farmers and ranchers who have been struck by severe drought conditions."
Veneman said that direct payments are available to eligible livestock producers in counties that have received primary disaster designations due to drought in 2001 and/or 2002. A county that has a Secretarial disaster designation request pending for drought as of Sept. 19, 2002, and is subsequently approved as a primary county, will also be eligible. LCP applications have been accepted in 1,189 approved counties in 35 states.
Other programs available for farmers and ranchers struck by severe drought conditions include: a $150 million feed assistance program to help cow-calf operators in Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota; Emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres nationally to provide relief for farmers and ranchers, which is valued at $100 million; and Emergency Conservation Program to help producers rehabilitate farmlands damaged by natural disasters. In addition, the Federal Crop Insurance program provides indemnities for production and revenue losses; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible producers affected by natural disasters. The Emergency Loan Program makes farmers and ranchers immediately eligible for USDA low interest emergency (EM) loans in agricultural disaster areas. In addition, producers in counties which have disaster designation requests pending as of today and which are subsequently approved will also be eligible to participate in the Emergency Loan Program.