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Congress Fails to Include COOL Fix in Spending Bill

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan, widely supported bill that would have created an alternative approach to country-of-origin labeling failed to get attached to the 2005 omnibus spending bill as Congress wrapped up its session on Nov. 20.

Backed by nearly 350 food and agriculture groups, including the Food Marketing Institute, the Produce Marketing Association, the American Meat Institute, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, H.R. 4576 -- known as the Food Promotion Act of 2004 and commonly referred to as the Goodlatte-Stenholm bill in honor of its co-sponsors, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas -- was approved July 22 in a voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee.

However, in the closing days of the current legislative session, Congress did not include the bill in its omnibus spending package.

"It is unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to support a law that will cost America's family ranchers billions of dollars in compliance costs that will eventually be passed back to consumers," said Bryan Dierlam, acting executive director of legislative affairs at NCBA.

J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president, echoed his organization's disappointment that the Goodlatte-Stenholm legislation to implement voluntary, instead of mandatory, country-of-origin labeling was not passed by Congress.

"Country-of-origin labeling is one of the most costly and cumbersome pieces of legislation ever introduced," said Boyle, noting first-year implementation costs estimated to be in the $4 billion range. "While proponents 'package' it as a consumer right-to-know law," he said, it "really is an anti-import law aimed at creating unfounded concerns about imported products. All meat products sold in the United States are inspected for safety regardless of their country of origin."

AMI intends to continue efforts to educate lawmakers about the problems inherent in the law and about the merits of an alternative voluntary program, said Boyle.
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