NCBA is asking Congress to amend the current country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) law so that it is workable. A chief concern NCBA brings to Congress is to clarify the paperwork and documentation requirements, as packers and retailers may demand complicated documentation.
They are asking for cattle born prior to the implementation date to be exempt. As it stands now the law would go into effect the fall of 2008. Many of the cattle that were born this spring will be marketed under the new law, but the final rule has yet to be written. NCBA is asking for liability protection for producers. As it stands now, producers who fail to comply with what may be very complicated and stringent requirements will be subject to penalties and fines.
They also want a level playing field. Currently over 75% of meat products will go unlabeled, putting beef -- especially beef at the retail level -- at a serious competitive disadvantage.
NCBA also questions the cost of the program. USDA's own cost-benefit analysis states the program could cost up to $3.9 billion in the first year alone. They are asking for Congress to remove the burdens on livestock producers and provide a system that will provide credible, tangible benefits to producers and consumers.
It is the law of the land and the implementation date is fast approaching. Everyone recognizes, whether you support voluntary or mandatory COOL, that the law was terribly written. It will be vital that the industry works together to get some of the more damaging aspects of the law rectified before implementation.