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USDA urged to sew up COOL rules now

U. S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer could avert squabbling over country-of-origin labelling (COOL) of meat by finalizing the rules before leaving office in January, a beef industry official said Oct. 29.

Labelling became mandatory Sept. 30, but USDA is allowing six months for food makers and retailers to comply with the law.

Labels are required on cuts of beef, lamb, pork, goat and chicken, and ground meat from those species.

A National Cattlemen’s Beef Association official said prompt issuance of the final rules would end such disputes as whether meat must carry a label saying it was U. S. produced or if it could be listed as coming from two or more countries.

“One thing Ed Schafer could do before the end of the administration is finalize the COOL regulations,” Burton Eller, head of NCBA’s Washington office, told reporters.

Otherwise, it could be a year before regulations become final, he said, considering the time that would be needed by the new president to appoint agency leaders and for them to conduct rule making.

In the interim, consensus for COOL could be tested. He said labels should be as explicit as possible.

Eller also said the most consequential nominee in the new administration in NCBA’s view would be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA is nearing a decision on air and water pollution rules for large-scale livestock operations.

There also have been efforts in the U. S. Congress to include manure in Superfund environmental cleanup regulations.

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