United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Assn. Issues COOL Position

Washington, D.C. -- Responding to the confusion and controversy abounding within the produce industry about the new mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association's board of directors issued a statement yesterday to better explain its position.

Citing heightened anxiety among attendees of United's Public Policy Conference last week, the association -- which represents members with many differing views on the controversial topic -- reiterated its position to ensure that any law or regulation implemented provides benefits to our members without adding needless costs to the industry and consumers. United also says it will continue seeking provisions to prevent unintended consequences that might change produce distribution and marketing practices in ways that harm the produce business.

Asking if the benefits outweigh the costs, United responded in a statement: "This is no time for exaggeration or hysteria, but for reasoned and careful analysis. While we support the industry providing more information about country of origin to consumers, we continue to have concerns about the details of this specific law, and whether USDA's regulations can be implemented in a way that adds value to the industry, rather than unneeded cost and expense."

United said it has worked aggressively with the USDA since the day the law was passed, to encourage that the law be implemented without extensive burden on the industry. "The voluntary guidance previously issued by USDA failed to meet that test," according to the statement, which notes the association has filed extensive comments with the USDA.

Despite concerns about the potential consequences of this law, Congress will not move to significantly improve, delay, or repeal the underlying law until it sees how the USDA has responded to the many concerns that have been raised, United said. Once the proposed regulations are published, the association said it will thoroughly assess whether the USDA has crafted a workable system of rules acceptable to United's member companies.

"Our industry's first priority must be shaping the regulations that will implement this law to be as practical and least costly as possible," United said in the statement. "Even those who advocate repeal must be aware that changing any law is inherently more difficult than shaping regulations and can never be a sure thing."

During the next few weeks until the proposed regulations are published, United urges all produce industry members to share their views and welcomes the input of the retail community, the latter of which will face the first impact of the new law.
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