COOL Challenges Likely

Implementation flexibility or loopholes are in the eye of the beholder.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service released the final rule for Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling this week.

The rule includes responses to a myriad of comments received last fall after USDA began the MCOOL program under an interim final rule. The final rule includes most of the features of the interim rule, including streamlined record-keeping and documentation requirements for producers that should make the program significantly less costly than earlier feared.

Flexibility added. The final rule also appears to provide more flexibility for U.S. packers in labeling product from animals imported for either feeding in the U.S. or direct slaughter.

"This degree of flexibility was a point of contention between Congressional supporters of MCOOL, USDA and industry groups last summer," says Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, Adel, Iowa. "The final rule language provides enough flexibility that we think the same disagreements are likely to erupt in coming days and weeks. Congress may respond by threatening to close 'loopholes' in the law."

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