Farm Bill Update: country-of-origin

Published online: Aug 08, 2007 Blog site of Phillip L. Fraas
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Washington D.C.--Two government programs relating to animal agriculture have been the subject of discussion recently in connection with the drafting of the 2007 farm bill: country-of-origin labeling ("COOL") and the national animal identification system ("NAIS"). Break-through amendments to the COOL law were included in the version of the farm bill passed by the House of Representatives on July 27, and I have gotten several inquiries about whether NAIS provisions will be included in the farm bill. NAIS NOT IN THE FARM BILL: USDA's national animal identification system, in operation as a voluntary program for several years now, is designed to facilitate rapid and effective animal disease traceback. It has three components: premises registration, animal identification, and tracing. Over 406,000 premises have been registered to date. While NAIS has been the subject of debate in agriculture, the House-passed farm bill did not include any provision dealing with the matter. The Senate won't draft its version of the farm bill until September or October, and we don't know yet whether it will include a NAIS provision. It is worth noting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released an audit of the NAIS program identifying several issues of concern and suggesting that implementation of the program needs improvement, but made no recommendations for legislation on the program. You can review the GAO report by going to www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-592. COOL IS IN THE FARM BILL: The 2002 farm bill included a provision requiring retailers other than restaurants to label meat, fish, perishable commodities, and peanuts by country of origin. This turned out to be controversial, especially for meat products, so that the requirements were never implemented. However, just before the farm bill was taken up by the House of Representatives last month, a compromise was reached by the warring parties on the issue, and the compromise was included in the House-passed bill. If the compromise holds together, the same language likely will be added to the Senate version as well and COOL finally will be implemented. To find out more information on the Farm Bill and continual updates from this blog visit www.farmbill2007.com