Mandatory COOL on the way
While the mandatory COOL law was originally passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, USDA has not yet developed the rule for implementation of the law, says Karen Batra, Director of Public Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Washington, DC.
“The rule is going to outline exactly how this program is going to work, but we haven’t seen that yet,” says Batra. “So we’re in a situation where we just need to wait, watch and be ready because what producers need to do specifically will be outlined in that rule.”
The most important thing you can do right now is be aware that mandatory COOL is expected to be implemented in September, Batra emphasizes.
NCBA has always favored a voluntary approach to country-of-origin labeling and has been opposed to government mandated COOL, explains Batra. “Unfortunately, we are now in a situation where it is a mandatory law so that’s something that we’re going to deal with in September.”
NCBA adopted policy in February 2007 that directs the organization to work with Congress and USDA to ensure that a COOL program provides maximum benefit and minimal market disruption to the United States beef industry.
During development of the 2007 Farm Bill, the House Agriculture Committee worked with NCBA and other groups to make COOL more workable for producers. Language to that end has been included in both the U.S. House of Representatives version and the Senate version of the Farm Bill passed last December, according to Batra.
Part of that language stipulates that only papers and records producers currently use as a normal part of conducting their business can be used for verification of the origin of their cattle, she says.
“In other words what this language does is make it so producers don’t need to take on any additional recordkeeping burden. They don’t need to put any new systems in place or any new computer tracking or anything like that. In theory, the paperwork that they have, such as sales certificates and health certificates, should suffice to prove origin of their cattle.”
Batra says that between now and the September implementation of COOL, producers should ensure that the normal paperwork and records they use for their business are in order.
“You don’t need to put in place any new recordkeeping, but just make
sure that the sales certificates and the health certificates are
organized in a way that you can put your hands on them when you need
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