More than 35,000 Consumers and Farmers Urge USDA to Protect Country-of-Origin Labels
Widespread Public Support for USDA Proposed Rule as Comment Period Concludes
Washington, D.C.—Consumers and farmers overwhelmingly support strengthened Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) rules, as demonstrated by more than 35,600 petition signatures sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding that the integrity of COOL be protected in the face of World Trade Organization (WTO) scrutiny. Four national advocacy groups delivered electronic petitions on the recently proposed COOL rules as part of the regulatory comment period, which ends April 11.
“People have the right to know where the food they feed their families comes from and the proposed COOL rules significantly improve the disclosure of information to consumers,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.
The petitions were delivered by the consumer group Food & Water Watch and the farm organizations National Farmers Union, Western Organization of Resource Councils and R-CALF USA.
“As confirmed by tens of thousands of petitioners, COOL is not a special interest issue: it is a fundamental right for consumers,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. “Secretary Vilsack should promptly finalize these rules that protect the integrity of country-of-origin labels.”
The advocacy groups were instrumental in the long-standing efforts to include COOL in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills to ensure that commonsense COOL labels were implemented.
“Ranchers have felt we produce the best beef and these good COOL reforms guarantee consumers can find our product,” said Weiser, Idaho rancher Mabel Dobbs, Chair of the Western Organization of Resource Council’s Ag and Food Campaign Team. “We’ve worked for over a decade to get COOL and we’re not about to give up defending it now.”
In 2008, Canada and Mexico launched a successful challenge to the COOL rules at the WTO. The advocacy groups supported a regulatory solution that addressed the WTO concerns and maintained the integrity of COOL by improving the clarity of the labels for consumers.
“The outpouring of support for COOL makes it clear that USDA is doing the right thing by proposing strengthened and more informative labels,” concluded National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.
Melisa Augusto, National Farmers Union: (202) 554-1600
Kevin Dowling, Western Organization of Resource Councils: (406) 252-9672
Bill Bullard, R-CALF-USA: (406) 252-2516
Anna Ghosh, Food & Water Watch: (415) 293-9905