U.S. produce group wants Congress to retain origin labeling delay
The Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association wants Congress to stand firm on its proposed delay, until Sept. 30, 2006, for a mandatory country of origin labeling law for produce and meats.
In the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, Congress set the implementation date for Sept. 30, 2004. Produce and meat producers pushed for a delay in 2003, which was written by Congress into the proposed 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Congress is expected to take up the legislation as early as this week.
However, the Dec. 23 announcement of the Washington state cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, has given impetus to supporters of the initial origin labeling mandate.
“The produce industry strongly supports the compromise reached to delay enforcement of the flawed mandatory country of origin labeling law, not to kill the concept, but to give the industry a chance to develop a more cost-effective and efficient market based system,” said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, in a statement.
The produce group predicts that, if the law is implemented as scheduled, it will cost growers, shippers and producers of fruits and vegetables as much as $604 million and produce retailers $720 million in the first year alone.
“Let’s use some common sense, and delay this law,” Stenzel said. “Then we can work together to give consumers the information they want, without the billion dollar price tag.”