U.S. Senate finalizes delay for food country of origin labeling
The U.S. Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill Jan. 22 that included language to delay a mandatory country of origin rule for two years.
The 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to impose origin labeling regulations for beef, lamb, pork, fish, shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities and peanuts by Oct. 1.
Produce and meat producers, even those that generally support the origin labeling law, warned lawmakers about the cost and disruption to their businesses to meet the mandate. The Department of Agriculture estimated that produce suppliers alone would have to spend up to $1.3 billion in the first year of implementing the regulation.
Produce companies applauded the Senate’s approval for the origin labeling delay, despite calls to pass it after a Washington state cow was confirmed to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease.
“This decision is a victory for produce consumers, growers, shippers and marketers across the country who believe in providing country of origin information to consumers, but through a market-driven system rather than the burdensome and costly regulations that this law required,” said Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association.
The produce industry said it will work together to develop a more efficient system to provide country of origin information to consumers.
Congressional leaders agreed in a conference report Nov. 25 to delay the implementation of mandatory origin labeling for meats and produce, excluding fish, until Sept. 30, 2006. The origin labeling delay language was included in an $820 million omnibus appropriations bill passed by the House Dec. 8.
The omnibus appropriations bill now heads to the president’s desk for signature.