With one of USDA's listening sessions on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) set for June 24 in St. Paul, MN, I've been considering my testimony. Here are some thoughts.

  • The sessions should have been held before COOL was put in the 2002 farm bill. There are too many unanswered questions about the cost and impact of this law.

  • I favor a voluntary COOL. Proponents of mandatory COOL say food safety and consumer choice are the primary needs for COOL. If food safety is so important, why is foodservice and retail restaurant meat excluded?

  • Why is poultry exempt from COOL? With COOL, beef producers will assume yet another cost of production that poultry producers won't have.

  • Before we can have an effective COOL program, we need a national livestock identification (ID) program. It would make COOL much easier to implement.

The Department of Homeland Security should fund this ID program. After all, in his 2001 beef industry convention speech, President Bush stated that a safe and secure source of food is critical to U.S. security.
Steve Brake
Wilmont, MN
President, Minnesota State
Cattlemen's Association