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Voluntary COOL bill introduced

A voluntary country-of-origin labeling (sometimes referred to as COL or COOL) bill was introduced into the House of Representatives today, members of the House Agriculture Committee reported at a morning press conference. Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) announced the introduction of the "Food Promotion Act of 2004," which proposes an amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. The amendment would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a voluntary labeling of country-of-origin information on produce; meat, including beef, pork, veal and lamb; and seafood.

The bill, which boasts 13 additional co-sponsors and the support of 325 groups, is meant to allow producers to work with processors and retailers to provide labeling information in the marketplace in an effort to inform consumers.

"The legislation we are introducing today will strike the onerous mandatory system and require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish in its place a rigorous voluntary program," Goodlatte said. "This will allow producers to work with processors and retailers to provide labeling information to help them market their product."

The bill was met with support from organizations representing various food industry sectors, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA), and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

The five organizations, which collectively represent hundreds of thousands of producers, said in a press release that the group hopes to have a voluntary program that benefits both producers and consumers.

"We all agree that the goal is to give consumers useful information about where their food comes from," said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations at PMA. "This legislation puts the labeling responsibility in the hands of marketers and the decision making in the hands of consumers."

For more information about country-of-origin labeling visit www.countryoforiginlabeling.info.

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