OK, on the face of it, Americans have a right to know where their food is coming from.
But the liberal U.S. Senators who introduced a country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) measure for dairy in mid-October are naïve if they think it will help the dairy industries in their states.
COOL will be a bad thing for the dairy industry, as it has already been for the beef industry.
For starters, COOL creates added regulatory cost for retailers. If the retailers decide to pass that cost onto consumers, it will make it more difficult for consumers to buy dairy products. And, that is exactly the last thing that consumers — and dairy farmers — need during an economic recession!
Well-known agricultural economist Barry Flinchbaugh, who is now retired from Kansas State University, told an agricultural-media summit last summer that the typical American will have to pay 11 percent more for American-produced food under COOL regulations.
The version of COOL that went into effect last year for meat, produce and nuts has already created political controversy between the United States and some of its trading partners. Canada has asked to have a dispute-settlement panel convened by the World Trade Organization to review its claims against U.S. COOL standards. We would hate to see a trade war break out between the U.S. and Canada, considering how important the Canadian market is for agricultural exports. (Canada is the second-highest importer of U.S. dairy products behind Mexico.)
On Oct. 16, shortly after the Dairy COOL bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate, the National Milk Producers Federation issued a statement suggesting that the move was ill-timed, considering the international controversy involved.
“Given the ongoing controversy over, and challenge with, implementing country-of-origin for meat products, and the learning curve involved in that regulation, we believe now is not the time to apply a similar requirement to dairy products,” the NMPF said. The NMPF pointed to disputes that have risen from both Canada and Mexico.
“In addition, dairy is different than other products. The extensive U.S. regulatory requirements that already exist, and that are applied to both domestic and imported dairy products, provide significant oversight over imports,” the NMPF said. “From a marketing standpoint, many of the foreign products coming into this country, especially cheeses, are already labeled with their place of origin, and do so willingly.”
When shopping for cheese, it is readily apparent where the cheese came from — imported cheese from France, Italy or the Netherlands usually tout the fact on their labels.
Is there really a problem here? Why does Congress insist on adding more and more regulatory burden to our lives?
U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) have some explaining to do to their considerable dairy constituencies as to why they introduced a dairy COOL bill.