Meat Labeling Suffers Setback

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee on Tuesday voted unanimously to deny funding for the Agriculture Department's meat labeling program.

President Bush signed the labeling program into law last year as part of a $190 billion farm bill. The Agriculture Department estimates it would cost $1.9 billion to keep careful records on where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for American Meat Institute, said Tuesday's vote gives the industry hope that Congress will repeal the requirement.

On the other hand, supporters have been urging the Agriculture Department to issue a final rule forcing companies to carry out the program.

"Implementation was specifically put off until fall of 2004, specifically to allow thorough review and consideration of how to implement it," said Arthur Jaeger, assistant director for the Consumer Federation of America. "They've had plenty of time to do it."

Defending the labeling requirement, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said the labels could have helped U.S. and Canadian officials quickly search for cattle linked to a cow infected with mad cow disease in Canada.
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