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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. REHBERG
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The Clerk read as follows:
Amendment offered by Mr. Rehberg:
Strike section 743 (page 71, lines 8 through 11), relating to country of origin labeling for meat and meat products.
Mr. Chairman, this is a very simple amendment, that is why I had it read. It is country-of-origin labeling.
A vote for this amendment is a vote in favor of country-of-origin labeling. A vote against this amendment is a vote to kill it. The proponents of what they did in the subcommittee and full committee will talk about the fact that they are delaying for 1 year, but that does not occur. Within this amendment, by delaying the implementation, you in fact delay country-of-origin labeling because the Department will spend no time on this very matter. We knew all along the administration did not support this. I have talked to the President personally about this. I do not know if they necessarily understand the issue.
The issue is very simple. Do we want to give our producers in America the opportunity to tout the fact that their product was born, raised, and processed in America? Country-of-origin labeling offers shoppers a choice, but also provides farmers and ranchers fairness. The issue has been fully debated. It was debated in the House farm bill. It was debated in the Senate farm bill. It passed both bodies. It was signed by the President; and, in fact, the administration has had twelve hearings around the country.
By taking the funding away from the implementation, you are cutting the legs out from under American farmers and ranchers and our ability to know where our product comes from, and it makes you wonder why somebody would be reluctant to put their name or their country on their product. Currently you can buy clothes, you can buy electronics, you can buy toys that label where they come from; but you cannot label meat mandatorily. You do not know where your meat is necessarily coming from. And yet you can buy Australian lamb chops, New Zealand apples, and Chilean sea bass.
Some will try to say that COOL violates the international trade agreements. And that is not true. In fact, in an article just today, the Japanese officials have said that trade would be banned beginning September 1 if the United States cannot certify that exports contained no Canadian beef. Our number one importer of our beef is Japan. They want country-of-origin labeling. Our number three importer of our meat is Korea, and they want the same labeling. In fact, 60 countries around the world are asking for labeling.
I have brought along an article that was in the Great Falls paper yesterday, the Great Falls Tribune. Interesting: ``This spring after a case of mad cow disease was confirmed in Alberta, Montana's cattle industry found out just how valuable it is to know where cattle are all the time. In June, officials learned five bulls from a Canadian herd linked to the Alberta cow with the disease were sold to a Montana ranch in 1997. The paper trails created by the State's inspection process traced in less than 20 hours where the bulls had been and where they ended up. Montana's brand inspection laws are among the country's strictest. Every time branded livestock are moved across a county line, sold to another owner or brought to a livestock auction, an official inspection must take place; records of those inspections are kept in a State wide registry. Jack Wiseman, administrator of brand enforcement of the Montana Department of Livestock said, `If a cow never left the State of Montana or was exported to State with a similar brand laws, we could trace the ownership of a cow from calf-hood to death.' ''
Do not listen to me as to why this is important. Listen to somebody who has some experience in enforcement of livestock laws. `` `Montana's system is enviable,' says Larry Gray, the director of Law Enforcement for Texas and the Southwest Cattle Raisers. The Lone Star State does not require brand inspections for stock sales between private individuals. Brands are recorded at the county level but there is no state-wide registry. I wish our laws were more stringent. That is a problem in Texas, he said, and right there there is not a way for State officials to trace an individual animal's history. `Perhaps with country-of-origin labeling which would show consumers where meat sold at the retail level is born, raised, and processed, there will be a way to trace cattle here.' ''
Does that not scare you to death? Cattle can be stolen in some States around this country and we have do not have the process set up to be able to tell, like Montana did within 20 hours, where cattle that had come from a State or a country that had a problem, where those livestock went. It is important that we pass this amendment. It is important that we carry forward with country-of-origin labeling for America, for farmers and ranchers, for consumers.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, there is strong bipartisan opposition to this amendment in this body. It is interesting to note on this occasion when amendments are presented before this body how much misinformation is presented. For the proponents of this amendment to in any way indicate that you cannot put labels on any meat products at this time is absurd. This is a free country.
Any producer, any retailer right now can stick a label that says ``Made in America'' on any aisle in any frozen food section, in any section of the grocery store if they choose to do that.
The misinformation about whether or not this amendment affects mad cow disease is one of those fear-mongering arguments that is often times made in this town and around the country when you are trying to reach people at the emotional level and not at all talking about the truth in substance about the issue at hand.
This country-of-origin labeling on meat products that is in the bill, the prohibition on funding, has absolutely nothing to do with mad cow disease. But again, this argument is being pulled off the shelf to try to scare people into voting for this.
This prohibition that we have put in this bill simply says that USDA will not be able to work on enforcing, promulgating, developing any kind of regulation for a year until there can be more ample study and understanding of the bill.
This country-of-origin labeling provision that was put in the farm bill last year is controversial and costly. Many of our producers out there are shaking in their boots right now wondering about the liability that they would be faced with, the action that could be taken against them by people who would simply hold them accountable for not putting the proper label on their product. It could drive them out of business.
Grocery stores in this country, I do not care what part of the country you live in, if you have got a Safeway, if you have got a, like in Texas, an HEB Food Store or an Albertson's, all of the people who run those grocery stores are opposed to this amendment because they have a tremendous liability laying before them if that product is not labeled appropriately.
So if you are interested, any Member who votes for this amendment that is
being presented by my colleague today would in essence would be voting to increase the grocery bill and create sticker shock the next time Americans go through the meat section in a grocery store. So that is what you would have to face if you vote for this amendment. The cost of this implementation of country-of-origin labeling has been estimated on the low end so far by those who have been working on this at USDA to be $2 billion. Overall most people agree that that is a very conservative cost estimate; and, in fact, the cost of implementing this would be much, much higher and guess who is going to pay for that, Mr. Chairman? That is why we are completely opposed to this amendment.
This has bipartisan support to be opposed to this amendment. The chairman of the authorizing committee, the ranking member, so many others that are part of the Hispanic Caucus, the Black Caucus, all across the board, again, members of the authorizing committee are also opposed to this. And they are working on this issue, having hearings, trying to deal with this country-of-origin labeling in the appropriate way. We are just asking with the provision in our bill to give them the time to do that.
Ms. HOOLEY of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, our previous speaker talked about bipartisan effort to not pass this amendment. Let me state that last year there was a bipartisan effort to get this amendment in the bill, and it passed both the House and the Senate. It is also interesting when the gentleman says, well, you can just slap that sticker on a piece of meat or whatever. Well, guess what, we require that we know where our clothing is made, where our shoes are made. I think consumers need to know the meat, the produce they put in their mouths, where it comes from, where it is raised, and if it is safe.
I agree with the statements made by my colleague from Montana and thank him for the leadership on this issue. Over the past several days I received letters of support from the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Cattlemen's Association thanking me for helping to bring this amendment forward today.
Our amendment is supported by farmers in my district and across the country, which is why it is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau and the Farmers Union. Consumers Federation supports this as well as other consumer groups. Our farmers grow the best produce and raise the best livestock in the world, and American consumers know this. Studies have shown that Americans want to buy American commodities and are even willing to pay a premium to do so.
Yet while a consumer could go into a department store and know that their shirt is made in this country, they cannot go into the grocery store and have the same certainty about the food they are going to serve their families.
U.S. producers need mandatory labeling in order to compete in the marketplace. Product differentiation is the only way consumers can exercise their choice between purchasing either domestic beef or beef produced by foreign competitors.
In fact, according to a 2003 Colorado State University survey, 69 percent of consumers participating were willing to pay for more steaks clearly labeled ``USA Guaranteed: Born and Raised in the United States'' than for those without origin labels. Our Nation's farmers and ranchers produce the best and safest commodities in the world, and our Nation's consumers deserve the chance to determine where their food is born, raised and processed.
Recent events have also shown that the country of origin labeling is necessary for U.S. farmers to compete in international markets, and we keep talking about trade in international markets. Our number one beef importers, Japan and Korea, have both demanded assurances that beef they are buying is actually American beef.
For these reasons, we had country of origin labeling provisions added to the farm bill last Congress. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is formulating the rules to implement these provisions right now.
What the provision in the Agriculture appropriation bill would do would be to prevent the USDA from putting these rules together, short-circuiting a process that is currently in place, a process that Members of this body and the Senate voted to have in there last time.
Opponents of this amendment contend that the costs for industry, including retailers, to comply with country of origin labeling are too great, and the price of products will rise as a result. This is simply untrue. We already have a test case in place.
The fourth most populous State in this country, Florida, has had a country of origin labeling requirement for over 20 years. The Florida Department of Agriculture has estimated the annual cost of its mandatory produce labeling law is just a couple of pennies for a bag of groceries.
Country of origin labeling is good for American farmers, good for American consumers. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand up today for their constituents and vote for the Rehberg-Hooley amendment.
Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
I rise in support of this amendment. I think the American consumers have a right to know where the food they are consuming comes from and where it is made. I mean, think about this. Any of us here could look at the labels on our own clothes and know where the country of origin is. Why should we not be able to have that right when it comes to the food we consume?
This is not only a matter of right to know. It is a matter of assuring that American agriculture will be able to have the full impact and benefit from the American market because American consumers prefer American agriculture. We have got to make sure that American agriculture has the support that it needs.
Indeed, we are talking here about an agriculture bill. This idea of right-to-know and protection of the market are only some of the reasons why so many consumer groups and so many farmer groups across this country promote this country of origin labeling amendment.
I want to cite the following in the time that I have remaining as groups that are supportive of this legislation so there can be no mistake about it, notwithstanding the remarks that have been made here that there is plenty of support for country of origin labeling across the country: The Alabama Farmers Federation, the American Agriculture Movement, Incorporated, the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, the American Agriculture Movement of Oklahoma, the American Corn Growers Association, the American Corn Growers Association of Nebraska, the American Meat Goat Association, the Arkansas Farmers Union, the Baker County Livestock Association, the Beartooth Stock Association, the Bitter Root Stockgrowers Association, the Bull Mountain Land Alliance, the Burleigh County Farm Bureau, the Calaveras County Cattlemen's Association, the California Farmers Union, the California National Farmers Organization, the Campaign to Reclaim Rural America, the Carbon County Stockgrowers Association all support country of origin labeling.
The C.A.S.A. del Llano, the Catfish Farmers of America, the Center for Rural Affairs, the Cochise-Graham Cattle Growers Association, the Consumer Federation of America all support country of origin labeling.
Crazy Mountain Stockgrowers Association, Dakota Resource Council, Dakota Rural Action, Dawson Resource Council, Dunlap Livestock Auction, Eagle County Cattlemen's Association, Eastern Montana Angus Association, Fall River and Big Valley Cattlemen's Association, Fillmore County Cattlemen's Association, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Farmers, Incorporated, Florida Fruit and Vegetables Association, Florida Tomato Exchange, Georgia Peanut Commission, Georgia Poultry Justice, Glacial Ridge Cattlemen's Association all support country of origin labeling.
The Grant County Cattlemen's Association, Grant County Stockgrowers Association, Holy Cross Cattlemen's Association, Houston Company Cattlemen's Association, the Idaho Farmers Union, the Illinois Farmers Union all support country of origin labeling.
The Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas, the Indiana Farmers
Union, the Indiana National Farmers Organization, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Iowa Farmers Union all support country of origin labeling. Just Food, Kansas Cattlemen's Association, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Hereford Association, Kemper County Farm Bureau, Kern County Cattlemen's Association, Kit Carson County Cattlemen's Association, Land Stewardship Project, the Lincoln County Stockmans Association all support country of origin labeling.
The Livestock Marketing Association, the Madera County Cattlemen's Association, the Malheur County Cattlemen's Association, the McCone Agricultural Protection Organization, the Merced-Mariposa Cattlemen's Association, the Michigan Farmers Union, the Minnesota Farmers Union, the Missouri Farmers Union all support country of origin labeling.
The Missouri National Farmers Organization, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, the Missouri Stockgrowers Association, the Modoc County Cattlemen's Association, the Montana Agri-Women, the Montana Cattlemen's Association, the Montana Farmers Union all support country of origin labeling.
The Montana National Farmers Organization, the Montana Stockgrowers' Association, the National Association of Farmer Elected Committees, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the National Consumers League all support country of origin labeling, and there is dozens and dozens more.
Support this amendment.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that all debate on this amendment and all amendments thereto be limited to 50 minutes and that the time be equally divided.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Texas?
There was no objection.
The CHAIRMAN. Would the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bonilla) like to control the time?
Mr. BONILLA. The Chairman is correct.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Bonilla) will control 25 minutes in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I request to control the time for the proponent.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Montana (Mr. Rehberg) will control 25 minutes.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 6 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), the distinguished chairman of the authorizing Committee on Agriculture.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies for yielding me this time and for his leadership in making sure that we address the country of origin labeling issue correctly.
Many of my colleagues may not appreciate how hard the House Committee on Agriculture has worked on the country of origin labeling issue. Several years ago, the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), then Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture chairman, and some of his colleagues began a process to explore this subject. They started out with the hope that it could be accomplished in a way to provide an effective tool for producers to earn more in the marketplace. The subcommittee proceeded to meet with interested parties and the administration to develop the idea.
Subsequently, the fiscal year 1999 Agriculture appropriations directed the Secretary to conduct a comprehensive study on the potential effects of the idea. During an April 28, 1999, Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture hearing, the Clinton administration testified about the ``variety of regulatory regimes'' for labeling that could be adopted and further asserted that they ``believe there would probably have to be some kind of paperwork traceback system.'' The GAO pointed out that ``there is going to be significant costs associated with compliance and enforcement.''
Concerned that the costs outweighed the benefits for producers, the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo) and others turned their attention to working with USDA to develop a credible voluntary program that allowed producers and processors to work together. Meanwhile, the GAO released its report in January of 2000 stating that mandatory labeling ``would necessitate change in the meat industry's current practices, create compliance costs across all sectors of the industry'' and asserting that ``U.S. packers, processors and grocers would, to the extent possible, pass their compliance costs back to suppliers, U.S. cattle and sheep ranchers, in the form of lower prices or forward to consumers in the form of higher retail prices.''
On September 8, 2000, interested parties submitted a petition to the USDA for a voluntary program and the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture conducted another hearing on September 26, 2000, to review studies and the USDA's progress on the petition.
In early July, 2001, Under Secretary Hawks wrote industry to commit the Agriculture Marketing Service ``to begin action on the petition requesting a USDA voluntary, user-fee funded certification program that will enable a label for beef products.''
That same month, on July 26 and 27, the House Committee on Agriculture conducted its markup of the Farm Bill. The transcript of that markup has 12,463 lines of text, with 3,167 lines on amendments to create a mandatory country of origin labeling program. Fully 25 percent of the markup was devoted to this proposal, which was ultimately rejected because of concerns that the costs outweighed the benefits.
It has been mentioned by some that this has been passed on the floor of the House, and that is most certainly not correct. Mr. Chairman, an amendment was passed on the floor dealing with fruits and vegetables. The more complicated issue of beef and pork, which is the only subject covered by the provision in the Agriculture appropriations bill that delays implementation for a year, is the beef and pork provisions. The House has never taken a position on this, and this is far more complicated and costly for the producers than any of the other sectors, whether one likes the other ideas or not.
For those that attended the Farm Bill conference meetings, they know that labeling was a major topic of discussion there as well.
Despite a complete lack of any hearing record on the subject, the Senate insisted on its provision requiring labeling for beef, pork, lamb, fruits, vegetables, peanuts and fish.
Just weeks ago, on June 26, the Committee on Agriculture conducted an extensive hearing on the implementation of mandatory country of origin labeling. We learned a number of troubling things. We learned that most of the problems associated with implementation were a result of the law and not the administration's interpretation. We learned that while some groups still support mandatory country of origin labeling, the two largest livestock producer groups in America, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council, both oppose it.
We learned that this new law will open everyone up and down the food production system to third party lawsuits with the potential of creating havoc for producers, packers, processors and retailers. We learned that because of the way the law is drafted, no matter what the administration does in writing the implementing regulations, because the retailers have been made ultimately liable for this labeling system, that they will set up their own regime to protect themselves against mislabeled products, and that regime is going to be very costly to producers.
If you are a domestic producer of beef or pork, you are going to have to comply with an enormous amount of record keeping, a great deal of cost which you are going to have to bear yourself. Lower prices for your product are going to be passed down to you by the processors, by the distributors, by the wholesalers, by the retailers; and that foreign competition, whether it is fine Argentinian Black Angus beef or Australian beef, they are simply going to slap it on the label and say we are guilty. It will cost them little, if anything, to comply; it will cost the U.S. producers more. Therefore, this is going to be a major competitive disadvantage for American agriculture. I would urge Members to support the
original Bonilla language in the appropriations bill to delay implementation for 1 year and oppose the amendment which has just been offered to strike that language. We need time to sort out the problems with this legislation before Congress ends up doing a lot more harm than good.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur).
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Rehberg-Hooley amendment to say that the Committee bill provision indeed subverts the law. This Rehberg-Hooley provision was included in the farm bill. But when the opponents of that law found an opening in the subcommittee of agriculture appropriations to try to subvert the law, they took that opportunity. And so what we are talking about here is changing the law of our country that was passed here, as well as passed in the other body, and signed into law. We surely had plenty of consideration. That is number one.
My second point is this amendment is being offered at a time when we have the highest number of meat recalls in the country's history. God forbid you are the parent of someone who just died from eating contaminated meat. I find it very interesting that those who oppose this say there are going to be all these high costs and all these problems. Do Members know that not one producer in Ohio has complained to me about this law? I represent cattlemen and cattlewomen. They raise a lot of different kinds of animals in our region. Producers want the labeling. In fact, the Ohio producers, the Great Lakes producers, are working on their own electronic ear tags because they do not want their meat mixed with other stuff that they do not know where it comes from. They want to be able to offer a quality product at a competitive price and get it on the shelves of the supermarket. The problem is that the supermarkets deny shelf space to independent producers.
We know who wants this law subverted. It is not the ranchers; it is not the farmers. It is the people who want to make money off them. Any decent business person wants labeling of their product. Our father operated a family grocery and when he made his meatloafs, when he made his sausages, we had our own label tape that we pealed and put right on the package. We were so proud of his products. Our market was called Supreme Market, and to this day it sold the best meat I ever ate, the best sausage I ever ate. We were proud to label it. Good producers want labels on their quality products.
In Ohio, the Great Lakes Family Farms has a special verification program. They eartag animals with all relevant information. They know what shots the animal got. They know which feed lot it was on and how much it weighed at 6 months, at 8 months. They know everything because they know their customers want to know, and that local label gives them a niche in the market to be able to offer quality meat.
Mr. Chairman, in an era when the consumer wants to know, why is the Republican leadership trying to subvert the law and not give us as consumers the right to know where our meat comes from? It is simply because if you are going to mix in Argentinian beef or mix in some other kind of meat at the store, you do not want your customers to know. If you have some Uruguayan skinny steer that was wandering somewhere around Latin America, and then you are going to take some of that meat and blend it in with Ohio beef, you do not want anybody to know because you are going to make just as much money on that package.
But the farmers know how to label. They are doing it already. They are doing it in our region, and those electronic ear tags are so complete and with technology being what it is today, we can know everything about an animal, even who its mother and father were.
Do not give me this baloney it is going to be so much more expensive. Our farmers are already doing it. Ohio farmers can lead the way. In fact, the American Farm Bureau supports the law. It does not support subverting the law. They support country-of-origin labeling. In the letter that they have sent to us, they say those products should be labeled at the retail level. With increased trade, more products are being imported into the United States and the farm bureau is working with the agricultural marketing services to implement a program with the least amount of burden and cost to producers.
So in addition to all of the names that the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich) read into the RECORD, I will include a letter from the American Farm Bureau.
Mr. Chairman, Members might have noticed the recent stories about mad cow disease, BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, that is up in Canada now. We have to know where our meat comes from, and people who raise meat should be responsible for it, just like my father was responsible for his products. They ought to be proud of what they are producing and not ashamed, and not try to hide something on a package that when you take the hamburger out, it looks red on the outside and it is all brown on the inside. We all know what they are doing. We understand what that is all about.
I think it is a worthy amendment. We have the technology to do it. I will place in the RECORD what the 4-H requires of our students as one of its projects to have labeling of beef. This is not rocket science. It can be done.
AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION,
Washington, DC, June 24, 2003.
Attn. MARCY KAPTUR,
House of Representatives, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR REPRESENTATIVE KAPTUR: The American Farm Bureau Federation commends the Appropriations Committee for timely action on the FY04 agriculture spending bill. We ask that you consider the following information as the Appropriations Committee acts on the bill this week.
We support full funding for the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (FSRIA). Unfavorable weather conditions, uncertainties involved with international trade, the value of the dollar and record high input costs have converged to produce a turbulent and difficult time for agriculture. The industry has suffered through several consecutive years of historic low market prices and weather disasters. The new farm law helps address problems faced by American farmers and ranchers and it provides unprecedented funds for our nation's conservation needs. Changes in farm bill programs would be devastating not only to farmers and ranchers but the rural economy as well. Consequently, the Farm Bureau strongly encourages you to avoid making changes to FSRIA in the FY04 appropriations process.
We commend the Committee for maintaining full funding of farm bill commodity programs. It is imperative that counter-cyclical payment rates, loan rates and direct payments be preserved as adopted in FSRIA. We are opposed to any changes in current payment limitations for direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, loan deficiency payments (LDP) and marketing loan gains (MLG), including a separate payment limitation for the peanut program. Current rules on spouses, three-entities, generic certificates and actively engaged requirements should be retained.
AFBF supports country-of-origin labeling (COOL) as passed in the 2002 farm bill. Many farmers and ranchers believe that the products they grow in the United States should be labeled a product of the United States at the retail sales level. With increased trade, more products are being imported into the United States, giving the consumers greater choices at the marketplace. Farm Bureau is working with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) at USDA to implement the program with the least amount of burden and costs to producers. We are disappointed the legislation blocks further work by USDA to implement country-of-origin labeling for meat and poultry products. We ask that you support the restoration of funding for this important program.
Farm bill conservation programs should be fully funded. Full implementation of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and Conservation Security Program (CSP) is key to assisting agricultural producers in complying with environmental regulations and addressing important conservation issues nationwide. Program funding for technical assistance is essential if conservation programs are to be successful. While we are pleased that the bill increases funding for conservation operations activities, we are disappointed that funding for CSP is blocked and limits have been placed on EQIP.
The development of alternative energy sources is not only significant to the advancement of American agriculture but also is vital to enhancing our nation's energy security. The 2002 farm bill contained an energy title that includes provisions for federal procurement of bio-based products, bio-refinery development grants, a biodiesel fuel education program, renewable energy development program, renewable energy systems, a bioenergy program and biomass research and development. These programs will assist rural economic development as well as increase our nation's energy independence. We are disappointed that the bill under consideration does not include funding for key programs that promote alternative energy sources.
Thank you for your consideration of these issues of importance to farmers and ranchers.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) as a demonstration of strong bipartisan support in opposition to this amendment.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, many of us have spent countless hours on country-of-origin labeling on the authorizing committee both during the discussion on the farm bill and since. The Committee on Agriculture has conducted a series of briefings on country-of-origin labeling to educate staff on the implementation of the requirements, and recently held a full committee hearing on the issue. The gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Hayes), chairman of the subcommittee, has indicated that he will hold additional hearings on this issue in the near future.
It is not my purpose to stand in opposition to the amendment to subvert the law. I am standing here saying we want this to work; and for it to work, it will take an additional 1 year of time to make it work.
I question the wisdom of a mandate to include on labels every piece of information that a random consumer survey identifies as something consumers want to know. Current U.S. food labeling requirements are based on the attributes of the food itself, such as nutritional composition, ingredients, special safety considerations such as presence of allergens and requirements of handling and safe use.
This was pointed out by the previous administration in a letter to the EU concerning biotechnology. Every additional piece of information we require on a label by government mandate diminishes slightly the information that is already there.
I have heard that Americans know where their shirts are made, Americans know where their cars are made, but not what they are putting in their mouth. I say what is wrong with this picture? Those who say that are right, we do not know where these things are made, but these items do not have to participate under guidelines even remotely similar to those included in the current COOL law. Members will notice their shirt may say ``Made in the USA,'' but it does not say where the cotton came from or where the dye that went into the shirt came from.
Be careful what we ask for when we stand on this floor and say we want to mandate something, just in case we get what we are asking for. Every single beef producer group that testified in front of the Committee on Agriculture testified very clearly that this is a marketing issue and not a food safety issue. Too many of us in this body right now tend to mix the two together in saying that meat that does not come from the United States is not safe. Please do not send that message to the consumer because the consumer today in America has the most abundant food supply, the best quality of food, the safest at the lowest cost to our people of any other country in the world; and when we begin to suggest that unless there is a certain label there will be a problem with the safety of the food, it is dangerous for producers. That is why most producers do not support the full intent of this law, and that is to mandate something that no one has yet figured out how to do.
We exempt most meat from even the applications of the law. Restaurants are exempted, for example. So let us be careful as we vote on this amendment today. And again I point out, this is not a food-safety issue. This is a marketing issue. If we are going to deal with the food safety, and I fully concur and fully intend to be back on this floor very, very soon with a food safety component, trace back. Our producers today are beginning to look at how can we truly certify where our meat comes from from a BSE standpoint. In Canada, they have a trace-back system. We do not have a trace-back system yet, but we will have one soon because producers all over the country recognize that we must have a way of tracing. We do not have it yet, but we will have one that will be supported by a majority of our producers.
This is one of those things that gets very emotional because there are those that tend to mix this up with food safety. I want to repeat for the third time, this is not a food-safety question. I absolutely support identifying where all food products come from to the best of our ability. I happen to believe, for example, that American lamb identified as such and Australian lamb identified as such is something that the consumer ought to know. We are working to get that kind of agreement and do it in a way that makes sense.
But if we implement this in the way that those who support this amendment are suggesting today, we are going to create some tremendous uncertainty. This has all kinds of trade implications. It has all kinds of food-safety implications. With all due respect to those offering this amendment, it is interesting that most of the producers supporting this do not deal with Canadian or Mexican cattle. If we want to ban all Canadian cattle, all Mexican cattle into the United States, then be prepared to have all United States cattle banned from country after country after country, because under trade agreements, reciprocation is something that we truly agree to. I urge Members to oppose this amendment and support the delay, not circumvention of the law, but a delay to get this right.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey).
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I just want to observe one thing. The history of this country has demonstrated that every time there is an effort to provide additional regulation or additional oversight in order to help workers or help farmers, or to help little guys against the big guys, somehow it is always too costly. We cannot provide the minimum wage, we cannot provide wage and hour protection, or this or that because it is going to cost too much.
Well, I would bet if we conducted a poll of consumers, that they would, by overwhelming numbers, say that they want this provision to go forward. We have a tremendous debate in this country going on about the virtues of globalization. As far as I am concerned, globalization is inevitable; it is going to happen, and we need to figure out how to adjust to it. But I also note that in that debate you have numerous forces in this country who under the rubric of globalization would lead you to believe that there is still no legitimate amount of room for discussing the virtues and values of home-grown products, whether it is automobiles or farm products.
I suggest to Members that even if we take the assertion of the gentleman from Texas at face value, and I do, let us say that this is not a consumer health issue, let us say this is not a food-safety issue, let us say it is simply a marketing issue.
This is a marketing tool that our producers have a right to have. This is a marketing tool that I assume is the reason that the Farm Bureau and the Farmers Union both have indicated their support for this provision. Our consumers want to know where the stuff that they eat comes from and our farmers want to know that they can demonstrate pride that it is their home grown product. This amendment is the only way that we are going to let them exercise that right.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Latham), vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.
Mr. LATHAM. Mr. Chairman, I thank the subcommittee chairman for the yielding me this time, and I rise in reluctant opposition to this amendment.
First of all, I want to say, no one through the whole process on this issue has ever contended that this is a food safety issue. As the ranking member of the authorizing committee said three or four times, it is very true, this is not an issue of food safety in any way, shape or form. The reason I oppose this amendment today is in support of our independent producers.
I would just like to give a little scenario about what is going to happen if this is enacted. All we are asking for here is a time-out to study the issue more closely before a mandatory system is enacted. But what we are going
to see is a system where independent producers are going to bear the cost of implementation of this law, and anyone who thinks that the packers really care about the cost on this are totally mistaken. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chairman, any kind of cost that they would incur is going to result in reduced bids to the independent producers out there who do not control the price that they get for their products.
The situation in my State is that we have Canadian pigs coming into Iowa to be grown out primarily by independent producers. If this is enacted, we are going to see the large conglomerates start from raising, farrowing their own hogs, growing those hogs out, killing those hogs, putting them in their own labeling package, marketing themselves. Those are going to all say ``USA.'' The independent producers' animals are going to have to say that they were bred in Canada or wherever they came from and are going to be discriminated against.
The issue here is, do we preserve our independent producers? We talk about vertical integration in the livestock industry. Nothing is going to bring it on faster than provisions like this that will hold the independent producer accountable but not the major, multinational companies.
So I just stand here in support of the independent producers and look at the mandate that is going to be put on them and what it is going to cost them.
The one question I have asked producers, in what way, shape or form is this ever going to put one more cent in your pocket, in your bottom line? No one has been able to answer that question. So I think we have to step back, take a look at this, and understand all of the ramifications of this issue.
Also, Mr. Chairman, I have to look at the cost to the consumer out there when we talk about the additional costs that are going to be borne by the retailers. Who is going to pay the bill? The consumers who walk in and buy that at the counter are going to absorb the cost. So, in support of independent producers and consumers, I reluctantly say that we should oppose this amendment and support our independent producers.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Wu).
Mr. WU. Mr. Chairman, I thank my colleague from Montana for yielding me this time. I rise in strong support of my colleague from Montana and my colleague from Oregon's amendment on meat origin labeling.
The opponents of this amendment argue complexity and delay. I want to offer simplicity and probably brevity here. We created the strongest securities and financial industry in the world by asking for disclosure, labeling and disclosure a few decades ago. That was opposed tremendously by the industry at that time. However, I believe that many segments of the industry would support that today because that disclosure has been helpful to the securities and financial industry.
As previously pointed out, I would like to make a point that labeling, I believe, is a good thing. I can look at the back of this tie and determine that it is made in America. I can look at the labeling in this suit and determine that it is made in America. If I go to the cloakroom right now and eat a hot dog, I cannot tell where that product came from. It comes down to this. I think it really is very, very simple. People ought to know and people ought to be able to choose. As your mothers and your grandmothers admonish you, you are what you eat. I ask this Congress to support this amendment so that people can eat American and be American.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Dooley), a Member who is considered an expert in this field.
Mr. DOOLEY of California. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment. I think we need to reflect on why the National Beef Cattlemen's Association and why the National Pork Association, who represents the majority of producers of those livestock commodities which are subject to this mandatory labeling, why they oppose this. They oppose this legislation because they realize that it is going to result in additional cost to their producer, be they small or be they large.
They also understand that this also is not a health issue, and they make a distinction on what is the appropriate role of government in terms of placing mandates on producers and that we should have mandates when we have an issue that is related to the health of consumers, but we should not have a government mandate when it relates to a marketing issue. That is what this measure is all about.
We have had a number of my colleagues that have got up on the floor and said, we have labeling of our items of clothing that we wear. But we do not have labeling on our clothing that we wear that tells where the wool came from, where the cotton came from or any of the products that are part of this. We only know where this product, where this clothing, was actually manufactured. We are going far beyond that in this approach.
There is nothing in law today that precludes producers from having the opportunity to voluntarily label where their beef or pork or meat product came from. That is the appropriate tack I think that we should be taking today. We should once again I think back up and at least have another time-out, which is what the chairman's proposal does, to give the industry more time to understand how we can move forward in a more responsible manner.
This amendment that is on the floor today is one which will, unfortunately, cost producers the most. And what also I think is very apparent, it is going to create an unintended consequence of exposing producers to liability, exposing them to private rights of action by groups that might be motivated by welfare issues, by a whole host of issues that will now have an opportunity to seek legal and civil recourse against a lot of small and large livestock producers. That is not what we should be doing with this legislation.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Peterson).
Mr. PETERSON of Minnesota. I think the gentleman from Montana for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today as the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Latham) said he was reluctantly opposing, I am reluctantly supporting this amendment. I have kind of been back and forth on this. But I think it is the best way for us to resolve this issue if we can keep the mandatory provision in place.
The main reason I am supporting this is that we should not be dealing with this issue in the Committee on Appropriations. This issue should be dealt with in the authorizing committee. I was ranking member on the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture for many years and worked on this issue on the voluntary and all the other things. I was on the farm bill conference. The big problem here is that the language that was put into the farm bill is bad language, and it needs to be fixed. It has got problems. The authorizing committee ought to do that.
I totally agree this is not a food safety issue. It gets mixed up. It is a marketing issue. But I think people need to understand that we are arguing something that we do not even know what it is going to be. The rule has not been developed. There are people out doing studies saying it is going to cost this much. We do not know what it is going to be because there has been nothing that has been put forward at this point.
I would just like to point out, people have brought up this issue of marketing versus food safety. In the food safety area, we have had this BSE issue in Canada and everybody has read about that, but I do not know if people understand how it is that we guarantee in this country that we are BSE-free. You talk about the complications of this system. What we are doing in the BSE area, the food safety area, we are asking producers to sign a self-certification that they have not fed animal parts to cattle in this country and that they have not used certain kinds of antibiotics. It is self-certified, very simple and does not cost anybody hardly anything. I am arguing that the same thing could be done with the marketing aspect of this COOL. In other words, if this is good enough to guarantee that we do not have BSE in our livestock, then why is it not good enough to certify that this is where the livestock came from?
My point is that this could be implemented in a way that is not very expensive to producers. These issues that
are there are caused by the way the law was written, and it was inserted into the farm bill, and, frankly, I do not think we took enough time at that point to go through that and fully understand the implications.
So I think that the Committee on Agriculture ought to be dealing with this. I think that there are problems with the law. There are potential problems with implementation. I do not think there has to be. But it ought to be dealt with in the Committee on Agriculture and not on the floor of the House and not in the Committee on Appropriations in my judgment. I think the administration ought to have been out there with some rulemaking at this point so that we had some better idea what they are intending to do.
I am going to support this amendment. I think if we keep this in the law it is going to make the committee move faster. We will then be able to resolve this. Because I think, in the end, people want to have the food labeled. It is just a question of how we get there. I think there are simple ways that this could be done that are not going to cost people a lot of money. I encourage the adoption of the amendment.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Texas (Mr. Thornberry) who has a great expertise on this subject.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Chairman, I commend the chairman of this subcommittee for his leadership on this issue and trying to get a little common sense back into what has become a very difficult issue.
Mr. Chairman, this provision was added into the farm bill without a single hearing. Nobody actually in the business came and talked about how you do this and exactly what you do. It sounds good, that we all ought to have a label that says where our meat comes from. The problem is when you start working through how you implement it, it gets very complicated.
Let me just mention a couple of ways it gets complicated.
Number one, the underlying law exempts about 75 percent of the meat that is consumed in this country. If you eat it in a restaurant, it does not count. It is not labeled. If it is hamburger or other sort of processed meats, it does not count. It is not labeled. If it is chicken, if it is turkey, you do not get a label.
We have heard over and over that the consumers have a right to know. If the consumers have a right to know where their meat comes from, they have a right to know where 100 percent of their meat comes from rather than 25 percent of their meat; and so the effect of this is that we are adding a regulatory burden on 25 percent of the meat. That leaves 75 percent of the meat which is at a competitive advantage because of a government regulation. That is not right. It is time to step back and figure out how to do this thing right.
Number two, we hear over and over again how this is really going to be good for producers, that this is a market tool and they ought to be just loving having this opportunity. I would say that if producers see an opportunity to make money, they are going to take advantage of it. There are efforts in the beef industry today, the certified Angus program and other things have been very successful, but that is different than a government mandate that tells you what you must do.
It is not the big grocery stores that are going to pay this burden, it is not the big packers that are going to pay this burden and, in some ways, it is not even the largest cattle feeding operations. The people that are going to feel this burden are the cow-calf producers who have got to figure out some way to understand this regulation and then go comply with it before anybody will buy their calves, and then the stocker guys who take the calves and try to fatten them up before they go to the feed lot, those people on the low end of the production scale. So when we talk about big guys versus little guys, we ought to understand that this is a mandate that is going to be paid for by the little guys in the operation.
We have heard it over and over again that this is not a safety issue, this is a marketing tool, and we are going to make you do it whether you like it or not. That does not make sense. What makes a lot more sense is to take a time-out as the underlying bill does, give the Committee on Agriculture a chance to go and talk to producers as well as grocery stores and packers and consumers, people up and down the chain, and see how you can make something that works and actually makes sense.
This underlying law is not it, and I would say that anyone who wants to justify the underlying law has a very steep hill to climb.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, who controls the time as far as closing?
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin). The gentleman from Texas has the right to close.
Mr. REHBERG. Why would that be if it is my amendment?
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas is the manager of the underlying bill. He reserves the right to close.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, there is a lot of talk about experts on this floor. I am a member of the National Cattlemen's Association not because I am a Member of the Congress but was because I am a cattle producer. Less than 3 years I was on the ranch, running 147 cows, seven bulls, 2,000 cashmere goats. In Montana we know where our product comes from, and we know where it goes. It may not be a safety issue until one needs it.
Let me read this article again: ``In June, officials learned five bulls from a Canadian herd linked to the Alberta cow with the disease were sold to a Montana ranch in 1997.'' 1997. ``The paper trails created by the State's inspection process traced in less than 20 hours where the bulls had been and where they ended up.'' That is not bad. We know where they came from. We know where they went. And if we had not had that opportunity, it would have shut our borders down too. It would have been devastating to our industry.
I am amazed that there would be any opposition from any party in this country to know where their cattle come from, where their meat comes from so that we have the ability to tell people where it has gone in case these kinds of situations occur. So one can say it is not a safety issue until such time as one needs to know where they came from and where they went.
This provision within the farm bill does not even take place, it does not become implemented until September of 2004. That is plenty of time. And to the gentleman from Texas when he talks about the fact that it is a delay of 1 year, no. If they had wanted it to say only a delay for 1 year, the amendment in the subcommittee would have said that, and it does not. If they want to put that in, we can talk about that; but we are not at that point because what this does do is if they do not vote for my amendment, they in fact will stop, they will kill because nobody within the administration will spend any money on it because it says they cannot implement it. So there is no ability to spend money on it. Trade implications, yes, there are trade implications to this. But not to the extent that they are talking about.
Again, I repeat, Japanese officials said that trade would be banned beginning September 1 if the United States cannot certify that exports contain no Canadian beef. How can we do that if we do not keep track of our country-of-origin labeling? Volunteerism, that is great; but that is smoke and mirrors. It is never going to happen because our retailers, our packing plants will not play with us little guys. I know because I felt the victim sitting back on my ranch with 147 calves wondering what my price was going to be. I was a price taker, not a price maker. Little guys like me do not make price. The big guys do, and an entire industry was created in Texas for the very purpose of taking advantage of importing cattle from foreign countries to mix with ours, to take advantage of our good products, entire industries.
So there is no doubt there is another State standing here on the opposite side. There is no doubt that they would be parochial as I would be parochial, but do the Members know what? I live along the border, and we do in fact have the Northwest Compact. We do business back and forth. But all we are trying to do is create an opportunity to
be proud of American beef, to give us the opportunity to take advantage of an opportunity to showcase what we do for the American consumer. We have had opposition against this all along the way, and it has not ended. And when our chairman of the subcommittee talks about appropriateness, the appropriate place to have killed this bill with this proposal would have been in the farm bill or introduced legislation, but not to take the funding out from underneath or the implementation because what they are in fact saying is we did not want it before, but we want to win it behind closed doors.
And I have come to the conclusion, and I have been in this business a few years both as a State legislator and as a lieutenant governor, people support reform as long as it does not change anything. And that is what we are seeing here right now. Nobody wants to change anything because they are kind of comfortable with their position in the marketplace. I do not market. True, I do the best that I can on my little 147-cow operation, but I will tell the Members who does the marketing. It is the big guys.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Hayes).
Mr. HAYES. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Texas (Chairman Bonilla) for yielding me this time.
I rise today in opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Montana (Mr. Rehberg) and the gentlewoman from Oregon (Ms. Hooley). I applaud the gentleman from Texas (Chairman Bonilla) for including a provision in the agriculture appropriations bill that would limit USDA funding for the implementing of the mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat and meat products. The country-of-origin labeling law as written clearly requires more congressional attention before going into effect by September 30, 2004. I have friends on both sides of this issue, and I always support my friends. I support my friends with this amendment by cautioning them against the hasty implementation of unintended consequences that no one has yet fully researched, and I support my friends on the gentleman from Texas's (Chairman Bonilla) side by saying this is something that we do not need to do now. Recognizing there are many concerns among producers, processors, suppliers and retailers, the House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on June 26 for witnesses to discuss how mandatory country-of-origin labeling will affect them and their respect to industry. The hearing raised many questions, and the livestock witnesses specifically pointed out that there is tremendous potential for unintended consequence.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture of the Committee on Agriculture, I intend to hold further hearings on this matter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has held 12 listening sessions across the country from April to June of this year to allow those who will be affected by the law to voice their opinions. This was in addition to the numerous other producer and trade association meetings they have attended to discuss this law.
Country-of-origin labeling is not a new concept. The Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture held hearings on the issue during previous Congresses, and it was debated at some length during the House committee's consideration of the 2002 farm bill. The committee voted not to include the provision because there were too many unknowns about how this would affect producers. When the farm bill went to the floor, an amendment was added to label fruits and vegetables only.
As the Senate created their version of a farm bill, a provision was expanded to include beef, pork, lamb, fruits, vegetables, wild and farm-raised fish, and peanuts. I think it is important to note that the Senate held no hearings and had no debate on how producers and the industry would be affected by country-of-origin labeling.
I have heard concerns from many of my constituents about this issue, predominantly my livestock producers. I can tell the Members that not one of them has said this law will bring additional revenue or market advantages. They all express their deep concern that this law instead will bring them undue burdens and headaches in order to be in compliance. Unfortunately, a ``fire, ready, aim'' approach led to the creation of the country-of-origin labeling law. This issue clearly needs further attention, and delaying the implementation for meat and meat products is a step in the right direction. I would like to reiterate that this provision only affects meat and meat products. The current law will continue to go into effect for fruits, vegetables, wild and farm-raised fish, and peanuts. I urge my colleagues to support the appropriations bill and reject the Rehberg-Hooley amendment.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I have no requests for time, and I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I consume.
I want to thank the chairman of the subcommittee for this good consideration today and my colleagues for speaking on behalf of my amendment.
I have not been around the Congress all that long. This is my second term. I was confronted with a brand-new farm bill. That is one way to get your feet wet, drinking out of the fire hydrant, stepping into the middle of that. When I hear the debate about the fact that there has not been enough conversation, enough debate, we do not know where this is taking us, I remind my colleagues that this does not get implemented until September of 2004. We have got well over a year to continue the hearings, to continue the work on it. Congress can continue to have hearings. We can help the process along the way and develop the right country-of-origin labeling.
During the farm bill discussion that I was confronted with as a freshman, the country-of-origin labeling debate consumed 25 percent of the markup dialogue, 25 percent. So why are certain people reluctant to want to have beef or other meats labeled? Because they want to have the ability to blend cheaper products from other places for the purposes of marketing themselves. But are we seeing the cheaper price at the consumer level? Not always.
It is interesting to watch the marketing of our meat products throughout this country. If the beef guys jump up and complain, somebody steps forward and pushes pork in front of them or they might push chicken in front of them. We at the local level, us small guys, do not control the marketing. We need this avenue. We are proud of our product. And at a time when we are in a recession, at a time when much of American agriculture is flat on its back, we need the opportunity to say America matters to us in agriculture, America matters to the consumer; and if we can marry the two, our agricultural producers throughout this country, the mom-and-pops in Iowa and Montana and Texas and California and Georgia and Connecticut will all know that they have done a good thing because we have said American products matter.
We are not banning anything from a foreign country. We are not trying to create a competitive disadvantage. All we are trying to do is say give us the opportunity, us small guys to have the opportunity to have mandatory country-of-origin labeling so we know where our product is coming from, so we can take great pride in the product that we produce.
The country-of-origin labeling gives American shoppers a choice. It gives American farmers and ranchers fairness. It gives us the opportunity to say buy America. Please support this amendment. Support the country-of-origin labeling.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Once again I want to reiterate that often times in this town, unfortunately, truth and substance are set aside and emotional pleas are made in order to advance a certain cause. The opposition to this amendment is supported strongly. The opposition is strongly supported by thousands, millions of red-blooded Americans out there who are either producers or they are part of the processing of meat. They are running grocery stores in neighborhoods all over the country. They do not want this provision implemented until it can be studied further
and analyzed and done the right way. And again ultimately if this is implemented, the bills at the grocery store, there will be sticker shock in many of the grocery aisles out there as Americans wonder what happened; how did Congress implement such a libelous costly regulation so quickly without even taking the time to do so.
And let us also understand that any producer out there can now put labels on whatever they would like. There is an implication here somehow that there is some prohibition now on putting a label on any meat product. They can do that now today anytime they want. Also the implication somehow that this is going to threaten our food supply, I am delighted that many of the authorizers have stepped forward today in a bipartisan way to state clearly this is about marketing, this is not about any kind of food-safety issue.
This is, again, a 1-year prohibition on implementation or promulgation or developing of any regulations. So, again, the misinformation that has been presented that this is somehow an effort to kill this permanently is misguided. This appropriations bill simply runs for 1 year.
Finally, I would like to state very clearly that the Bush administration, the administration has put out a statement saying that the administration supports the committee's position on country-of-origin labeling for meat or meat products. So there is strong bipartisan support for our position on this issue. Everyone, again, from the chairman of the authorizing committee; the ranking member; the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Ortiz), of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; the gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Thompson) of the Congressional Black Caucus, again across the board the widespread support that we have on our side in taking a position I think is very clear.
And, again, if we would look at the substance in truth about what we are debating here, we would hope to defeat this amendment resoundingly.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Rehberg-Hooley amendment, which strikes the provision in this bill that prohibits USDA from implementing mandatory country of origin labeling for meat and meat-products.
Country-of-origin labeling is about giving people the information they need to make an informed choice to protect the safety of their families. Thirty-five countries we trade with including Canada, Mexico and members of the European Union already have a country-of-origin labeling in place. And American families recognize the need for this labeling--7 out of 10 people say they are willing to pay more to know where their food is coming from. At a time when food imports are increasing, but the number of inspections of imported meat is actually decreasing, consumers deserve that right.
And given the record 57 million pounds of recalled meat last year, this effort is also about being able to trace back contaminated product in the event of a recall. Knowing the source of an outbreak is a critical part of that process so that we can quickly take action to prevent people from getting sick. This is critically important considering the 76 million sicknesses and 5,000 deaths that occur every year from foodborne illness.
Some have argued that halting implementation of country of origin labeling for meat is to allow more time to consider the impact of the program on the food industry. But Congress already gave the USDA more than 2 years to design a program that is fair to all parties, including industry and consumers. Under that timetable, labeling is not scheduled to become mandatory until fall of 2004.
Mr. Chairman, country of origin labeling will not violate trade agreements or lead to retaliation. It will not bankrupt the food industry. It will simply let consumers know where their food comes from. We owe the American people that. Support the Rehberg-Hooley amendment.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of Rehberg-Hooley amendment which would preserve country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements.
As many of my colleagues know, in 2002, provisions were added to the Farm Bill requiring grocery stores and similar businesses to provide country-of-origin information for all fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, red meats, seafood and peanuts.
However, during the subcommittee markup of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, language was added barring implementation of these provisions.
Mr. Chairman, we were elected by the people of this country because they believe in our ability to represent their views. We passed the original legislation requiring country-of-origin labeling because our constituents want the information they deserve to make informed food purchase decisions for their families. We passed this legislation because our constituents want additional steps taken to prevent the potential spread of diseases such as mad cow, which we know was recently discovered in Canada. We passed this legislation because our constituents want special protective measures put in place to prevent tampering with respect to our food supply.
The provision currently in the bill would keep the American people in the dark by refusing to fund efforts to implement country-of-origin labeling for meat and meat products. We cannot let that happen. I encourage support of the Rehberg-Hooley Amendment.
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin). The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Montana (Mr. Rehberg).
[vote was subsequently taken]
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