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Industry Update

NCBA, Industry Groups to Develop Alternative Labeling Program
Date Changed for COOL Summit II

NCBA, Industry Groups to Develop Alternative Labeling Program
Mandatory Regulations Put Off for Two Years

After considering possible damages the mandatory country-of-origin labeling law could have on producers and small businesses, Congress decided late last week to delay implementation for two years until October 2006.  The current mandatory country-of-origin labeling law, included in the 2002 Farm Bill, is being discussed during formulation of the FY2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
“Many producers were concerned that these mandatory regulations could have a negative impact on their bottom line,” says National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President and Idaho cattle producer Eric Davis.  “This action puts more control of the industry in the hands of producers, and is one of the key steps that our NCBA Board voted overwhelmingly to authorize.”
The delay frees U.S. cattlemen from imminent implementation of the controversial mandatory law and sets the stage for the next steps in a national labeling program. Producer-members of NCBA will use this time to develop a voluntary program that promotes U.S. beef and enhances profitability for American cattle producers. 
“Under the mandatory law, less than 5 percent of the beef sold would ever carry something other than a U.S. label,” says Davis, pointing out that the majority of beef imported is sold through foodservice which is exempt from the law. “It is ridiculous that this law would place such a burden on U.S. producers while leaving the vast majority of imported beef unlabeled.  Our members have called for a voluntary, producer-driven program that maximizes our producer benefits by including all marketing channels and forms of beef - retail, foodservice, processed, fresh and frozen.”
NCBA is reaching out to key retailers and foodservice groups to participate in an alternative labeling program that will be industry-driven and inclusive. In addition, a voluntary program would better protect cattle producers’ confidentiality and give them more leverage in their dealings with packers and retailers.
“This is a clear indication that Congress is willing to give us time to work this out,” says Davis. “U.S. cattle producers must take the lead on this effort and work with retailers, foodservice groups, and others. With strong participation across all industry sectors, we can create a profitable labeling program that benefits all involved.” 
The conference report has been filed and final passage is expected when Congress returns.  The House is expected to return in early December.  The Senate schedule is still not determined.

Date Changed for COOL Summit II
BILLINGS, MT (November 24, 2003)  At the request of Terry Stokes, CEO, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) has changed the date of the upcoming Cattle Industry Summit II meeting.  The meeting is by invitation only and R-CALF USA extended an invitation to all U.S. cattle associations, including all national, state, and county associations.  The meeting will now be held on December 11, 2003, in Denver, Colorado.

Twenty-seven representatives from ten states, representing fifteen United States cattle associations, met in Denver, CO, on November 18, 2003, to participate in the first Cattle Industry COOL Summit.  The participants worked to improve the proposed mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) rules issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In addition, three national cattle associations were represented at the meeting.  The states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana were represented, along with national representatives from the Livestock Marketing Association, Intertribal Agricultural Council, and R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA).

“We made significant progress in a very short time,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Danni Beer.  “After analyzing the responsibilities and liabilities that USDA is proposing to place upon U.S. producers, the group came up with specific recommendations on how to improve the USDA’s proposed rules so U.S. producers would not be subject to unnecessary record keeping and costs,” she said.  Beer said the group went well beyond merely identifying how the USDA’s proposal could be improved.  The afternoon was spent exploring different systems that USDA could use to accurately verify the origins of livestock. 

“The participants of the first Summit are drafting a letter to USDA requesting an extension of time so the live cattle industry will have sufficient time to propose a better method of implementing COOL than what USDA is currently proposing,” said Beer.  “We are pleased to accommodate NCBA’s request to change the date to December 11 to better fit their schedule,” she added.  All U.S. cattle associations are invited to send no more than two representatives to participate in the December 11 meeting, including those who oppose COOL.  “The time has come for the entire live cattle industry to set     aside their COOL differences and begin working together to ensure that the COOL rules are workable for producers,” said Beer.

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