Three Democratic U.S. Senators have teamed up to extend mandatory country-of-origin labeling to dairy.
“Ohioans and all Americans have a right to know where their food was produced,” says Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Subcommitee on Food, Nutrition and Family Farms.
Brown is joined by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Last year, the USDA’s current COOL law went into effect requiring country-of-origin labeling of meats, produce and nuts. The Dairy COOL Act would extend the current law to include milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter.
The National Milk Producers Federation seems cool toward the idea.
"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. In particular, Canada’s and Mexico’s current dispute of the meat COOL regulation in the World Trade Organization are an indication of the challenges involved in this type of labeling," according to an NMPF release.
"The present dairy COOL proposal would actually apply to a broader range of dairy products than the meat COOL regulation, complicating enforcement and labeling concerns," NMPF said.
"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. 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," NMPF said.
The liberal U.S. Senators who introduced the COOL measure for dairy 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.) 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. — Tom Quaife, editor