Produce industry wants origin labeling stopped for reevaluation
U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable growers and processors want Congress to put the brakes on the implementation of a new country of origin labeling rule until a more efficient program is developed.
“Now is the time for Congress to step back and reevaluate its rush to judgment with this law,” said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer for the Washington-based United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, in a statement Nov. 10. “Far too much controversy exists on the potential costs and benefits of the rules implementing the law to require enforcement in less than 11 months.”
The origin labeling provision was included in the 2002 Farm Bill. According to the legislation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must begin enforcing the regulation by Sept. 30, 2004.
Stenzel said his members would “favor a delay in implementation to work with the Congress, USDA and all partners in the produce chain to replace this flawed approach with a market-driven labeling system.
“We believe in the value of country of origin labeling to consumers, to the produce industry and to retailers,” he said. “We know that positive promotional programs like ‘Buy California,” “Jersey Fresh,” and similar efforts can really help promote U.S. grown produce.”
United officials propose an immediate “summit meeting” of the produce industry to “begin intense work on a market-driven labeling system.” Unchecked, the association warned the origin-labeling rule would “impose hundreds of millions of dollars of regulatory costs on produce growers and shippers.”