Farm Bill Clears Senate Panel
The measure, passed by the Senate's Agriculture Committee this past week, says that all meat must be packaged with a label informing the consumer of its country of origin. However, both the Missouri Cattleman's Association and Missouri Farm Bureau argue that the labels should be voluntary.
The House version of the farm bill also includes the same country-of-origin labeling system, or COOL program. The Senate's version of the farm bill will head to the floor next week.
Out of Missouri's more than 70,000 cattle producers, the average producer's herd is small, usually between 35 and 50 head. The Missouri Cattleman's Association fears a mandatory COOL program will burden the market with unnecessary expenses, especially for smaller producers.
"It's like with anything, it's a gamble," says Merrel Breyer, president of the Missouri Cattleman's Association. "You know, whether this will pan out or not; whether the consumer will have any preference or whether they'll just go by their pocketbook."
Even though the current versions of both the House and Senate Farm Bills would require a mandatory cool program in the U.S., Breyer says it is not as bad as it could be for cattle producers.
"I think the packer will have the bulk of having to do the sorting," says Charles Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. "It really won't, as of this moment, hurt the producer at all."
But the Missouri Farm Bureau says that the program should not be mandatory.
"Our thought is, if there's value in labeling, then people are going to label," says Kruse.
Kruse says he is more concerned with how the USDA will implement the program so that it will not cause problems for the producers or anyone else along the U.S. food chain.