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House Votes To Postpone COOL Meat Requirements

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives approved a provision of the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations bill that delays the start date for mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat for a year, pushing it from September 2006 to September 2007.

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president Don Buhl was among those commending the move. "Congress now will have time to take action on a meaningful, bipartisan country-of-origin meat labeling program that makes sense for both pork producers and American consumers," said Buhl.

"This mandatory date is fast approaching, and the industry continues to be concerned that its implementation will cause great financial hardship. Pork producers remain steadfast -- mandatory country-of-origin labeling is all about costs with no benefits," he said.

The postponement was part of a $100 billion spending bill for food and farm programs in the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Aside from prohibiting the USDA from spending fiscal year 2006 funds on implementing regulations for COOL, the provision also directs the agency to conduct research into the impact of mandatory COOL on small businesses and other stakeholders, including supermarkets.

Among the bill's detractors, National Farmers Union president Dave Frederickson expressed dismay. "This law has been on the books for three years. How much more time do they need?"

Originally set for 2004, the controversial labeling initiative had already been delayed once by Congress. This new delay applies only to meat and meat products; the provision does not affect labeling requirements for seafood, which went into effect in April.
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