The run-up to the scheduled implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) has drawn a bit more heated rhetoric recently. Two weeks ago, the American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute sent letters detailing the verifiable auditable paper trails, indemnification of liability and the like that they will be demanding from suppliers. While this is nothing new, it sparked some reaction because people are beginning to realize that the implementation date is just around the corner -- September 2008.

Quite a few of the calves born this spring will be marketed past the COOL implementation date, so producers need to be putting together their documentation and paper trails right now. While there was a similar chorus of complaints about how this doesn't have to be complicated, there is also a growing understanding that the problem was that COOL is a very bad piece of legislation. Expect the impetus to correct the law to make it more workable to grow exponentially as the implementation date draws nearer.

Ironically COOL as written has been like a giant game of chicken. Proponents of COOL kept hoping USDA or someone could somehow circumvent the law and it make it workable, because they didn't want to risk reopening the subject.

Opponents didn't want to address the issues either. Their belief is the law is so poorly written and implementation will be so difficult that it effectively will kill itself. Neither side wants the bill as written to actually be implemented.

Meanwhile, AMI this week placed an ad in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, urging readers to "peel away the rhetorical wrapping paper" on mandatory COOL "and see that the costly and burdensome law is actually an effort to block meat and livestock exports from other countries."

Questioning the notion that consumers are willing to pay more for products that tell where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered, the ad says: "The protectionists' true motives are to make compliance with this law so difficult that U.S. meat packers will source livestock and meat products in the U.S. exclusively. But their short-sighted approach to limiting competition is sure to invite well-justified trade complaints under the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement."

To view the ad, go to www.countryoforiginlabel.org and click on Press Room.