Food Promotion Act Promises To Do No Harm

Jun 16, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The House Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said he and Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) know what they don’t want to happen with their new proposal for voluntary country
of origin labeling (COOL) legislation.

“We don’t want to create legislation that effectively harms American agriculture,” said Mr. Goodlatte.

The new proposal, called the Food Promotion Act of 2004, “will allow producers to work with processors and retailers to provide labeling information to help them market their
product. This approach, which benefits both consumers and producers, is preferable to a mandatory program which is more likely to hurt the folks it was intended to help,” he said.

The new proposal was being viewed positively by industry organizations that just last month called for a voluntary program.

The proposal put forth by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Fisheries Institute,
Produce Marketing Association, American Meat Institute, National Meat Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association and National Food Processors Association
established five criteria to gain their support for any new legislation. It needed to:

  • Be market-driven by consumer demand and industry promotional needs
  • Incorporate existing labeling programs already recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Make use of existing country-of-origin records for verification
  • Offer flexibility in the medium used to communicate the information to consumers
  • Allow labeling to be completed at the point in the supply chain where it will be most cost-effective.

Not everyone took the introduction of the Food Promotion Act of 2004 as a positive development.

Dave Frederickson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said the new proposal was simply a way of killing the mandatory program. “Voluntary country-of-origin labeling
has been an option for several years, but packers, processors and retailers have refused to participate despite an overwhelming majority of consumers wanting the information.”

Mr. Frederickson urged Congress to consider proposals previously made to improve the original program rather than scrapping it for the latest proposal.

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the Food Promotion Act of 2004 introduced yesterday?

The time and resources spent in Congress and industry debating the country of origin labeling (COOL) marketing program could (should) have been put to better
use elsewhere. Let’s hope the Food Promotion Act of 2004 will get everyone focused on more important issues.

George Anderson – Moderator

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