More than 200 organizations from 45 states this week delivered a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the USDA to protect the integrity of Country of Origin Labeling for meat products.
The letter stems from ongoing talks surrounding the labeling changes, which were brought on by World Trade Organization Disputes from Canada and Mexico claiming labeling standards in the U.S. created an unfair trade advantage.
The USDA has issued proposed new rules that simplify and clarify COOL to comply with the WTO decision, which the groups say is a step in the right direction.
Chris Waldorp of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America said, "Consumers want more information about the source of their food, not less. Strengthening the Country of Origin Label provides consumers with more accurate and precise information about the source of beef and pork products they purchase."
The proposed rules that the USDA issued in early March require that labels dictate where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The plan, the groups say, eliminates confusion and vague labeling provisions that were highlighted in the WTO ruling.
The National Farmers Union, an outspoken proponent of the labeling changes, says consumers should be able to read where their food came from right on the label.
"NFU has long supported COOL and urges the USDA to move forward with the new, more accurate, strengthened proposed rule," NFU President Roger Johnson said.
Despite the support of the coalition, other groups are not as pleased. When the proposed rules were announced, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the American Meat Institute both expressed concerns about increased costs for paperwork and processing.
The letter was submitted to the USDA as part of the regulatory comment period and sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The federal comment period closes on April 11, 2013, and the WTO ruling directed USDA to offer new COOL rules by May 23, 2013.
A copy of the coalition letter and list of all signatories can be viewed here.