Ag Leaders Want COOL Untouched

Jan 21, 2014

Agriculture advocates in South Dakota are pushing for a farm bill to pass the United States Congress – but not at the expense of certain elements. US Senator Tim Johnson says stability in the form of a farm bill impacts all other industries, but ag leaders aren’t willing to sacrifice at least one part of the program.

Farming and ranching organizations say the United States should have passed a long-term farm bill years ago. An extension of the legislation is working through a conference committee, and Members of Congress say they’re getting closer to compromise.

That is encouraging for South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke. But he balks at a suggestion that lawmakers repeal a law that mandates a label detailing products’ country of origin.

"We’ve opened ourselves up. Our producers have done a good job of making sure they haven’t brought in any diseases – foot and mouth disease, for instance," Sombke says. "If we open this thing up, we could be exposed to, our consumers could be exposed to, and our good product could be exposed to being comingled with a product that comes from a country that has foot and mouth disease. This could be an extreme problem for us."

The Country of Origin label is often referred to by its initials, COOL. The COOL labels establish where an animal used as meat product was born, raised and processed. Bob Mack with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association says the labels inform consumers; some people have preferences. Mack says the labels also protect buyers.

"There’s been speculation from some companies about slaughtering poultry here in the United States and then sending it over to China to be broken down and further processed and then to go and reimport it into the United States. We feel that if this process is going on, the consumer definitely should have that knowledge," Mack says.

The two ag leaders and US Senator Tim Johnson say people’s motivation in trying to repeal the provision is profit. But all three say doing so diminishes the value and integrity of American meat products.