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Time to Fire Some Bureaucrats and their Managers

Tex

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COOL enforcement lax, audit finds

By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI

Capital Press

The USDA has not imposed any penalties on retailers who have failed to comply with country-of-origin labeling requirements, according to an agency audit.

The agency's Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees the COOL program, has also developed backlogs in notifying retailers that they're out of compliance with the law, the audit said.

In roughly 30 percent of non-compliance cases identified by USDA last year, the agency notified retailers of the problem more than two months after the review, the audit said.

Auditors from the USDA's Office of Inspector General found that "AMS officials did not identify and investigate repeat violators of the COOL requirements or assess monetary penalties where appropriate."

In several cases, the USDA should have further investigated whether the violations were willful but did not do so during follow-up reviews, the audit said.

The audit also said the agency needs to improve its procedures for conducting reviews and better communicate with retailers, among other findings.

In a response letter, an official from AMS said the audit had begun less than a year after COOL had become effective in March 2009 -- a time when the agency was still focusing on outreach to the food industry.

The agency is now taking steps to beef up its enforcement of the statute and expects to fully comply with the audit's recommendations, the letter said.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America -- a major proponent of COOL -- is troubled by the audit's findings.

"It confirms our concern that USDA has not taken its responsibility seriously," said Bill Bullard, R-CALF's CEO.

After 2 1/2 years, the lack of enforcement actions by USDA sends a signal to the industry that the agency isn't intent on strict implementation, he said.

Bullard said he's also afraid the USDA's enforcement of the program will undermine consumer confidence in country-of-origin labeling.

"It really reduces the value of the COOL label itself," he said.

R-CALF opposes the industry practice of labeling beef as a product of multiple countries -- such as U.S., Canada and Mexico -- on a single label, since this confuses consumers, he said.

When the program first went into effect, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to industry representatives asking for more transparency in labeling.

Vilsack recommended labels that labels be more specific, for example: "Born and Raised in Country X and Slaughtered in Country Y," the letter said.

So far, however, the agency has not stood up to retailers and meat packers who opposed COOL, Bullard said. "It exemplifies there really have been no changes in USDA despite the rhetoric espoused by this administration in 2009."

The USDA has not been signaling that COOL is unimportant, but the program likely is a lower priority than food safety, said Jeremy Russell, communications director for the National Meat Association, which represents packers.

"It's more of a nice-to-know program for consumers," he said. "It doesn't add any value for producers, including those in R-CALF."

For packers, the primary effect of the COOL program has been to increase operational complications by requiring them to segregate livestock from different countries, Russell said.

It's possible that retailers make labeling mistakes based on information supplied by packers, but such errors would be unintentional, he said.

"I think, by and large, there's been large-scale compliance," said Russell. "Nobody is motivated not to comply."

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information, go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
 

Tex

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The USDA has not been signaling that COOL is unimportant, but the program likely is a lower priority than food safety, said Jeremy Russell, communications director for the National Meat Association, which represents packers.

"It's more of a nice-to-know program for consumers," he said. "It doesn't add any value for producers, including those in R-CALF."


Isn't it nice for the NMA to speak for groups like rcalf? :wink:

It is unimportant for consumers to know that their beef is Angus or any other marketing plan unless those are actually marketing plans that make a difference on the shelf. All Branded programs are marketing ploys to consumers just as COOL is.

Just because the major meat packers want to hide where they get their beef doesn't mean consumers don't or that a marketing program can be so designed to increase value to domestic producers.

My wife and I try very hard to NOT buy anything from China. There are many, many items we just skip buying because we have these huge trade deficits and the national politicians haven't done their job on protecting the U.S. economy from currency manipulation and other international trade games our politicians seem to be ignorant of (they are really ignorant on a lot of things).

I did buy some of that mixed beef from Canada and Mexico label unknowingly under the Kroger brand. The meat was terrible and that comes from my kids, not me. Quality costs. That meat was too cheap to be good for our family but too expensive for the pets. I won't make that mistake again. Ground meat is not all the same (I usually buy a primal and grind it myself or slaughter a calf or something--I had just run out).

Tex
 

mrj

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Truly, what does it add to your health and welfare to 'know' that the meat was produced within the USA if you do not know anything else about it?

Without a farm or ranch of origin, there is nothing improved by that label.

Given that businesses can be punished, with requirements for additional record keeping to verify labels, this silly law leads to increasing meat prices at a time when consumers already are hard pressed for grocery money.

It was 'feel good' legislation which does nothing beneficial, and those who instigated it didn't want the responsibility for the PRODUCER of origin, which truly IS what consumers would like to know, it is all cost and no benefit to anyone.

mrj
 

Tex

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mrj said:
Truly, what does it add to your health and welfare to 'know' that the meat was produced within the USA if you do not know anything else about it?

Without a farm or ranch of origin, there is nothing improved by that label.

Given that businesses can be punished, with requirements for additional record keeping to verify labels, this silly law leads to increasing meat prices at a time when consumers already are hard pressed for grocery money.

It was 'feel good' legislation which does nothing beneficial, and those who instigated it didn't want the responsibility for the PRODUCER of origin, which truly IS what consumers would like to know, it is all cost and no benefit to anyone.

mrj



There you go supporting crap foreign meat again, mrj. I do care about it and my wife and I do purchase things made in the USA and we do put off buying A LOT of things that do not come from this country and we will continue to do so until our trade deficits are corrected.


Who are you to say I how I can discriminate between say Angus beef or any other brand or food or goods from any other country?

If you want to support buying foreign goods, it is your right. I want meat packers to give me that information when I buy meat and now it is the law of the land whether you like it or not. I want the information at the point of purchase whether or not I am supporting a business that cares more about its profit margins than the economy of this country. I am just sorry you are not so patriotic.

Tex
 

mrj

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Simmer down Tex, you might just implode in front of all of us!

Nowere did I say anything about you, your talent for dscriminating between Angus, or anything else, nor of your right to choose whatever products you want.

The Trade Agreements Obama leaves languishing on his desk since his inauguration would go some distance toward correcting our trade deficits.

Why do you hate those businesses which care about their profit margins?

What can you cite as proof that any of them "care more about it's own profit margins than the economy of the country""

Isn't it likely that if the economy of the country in general is suffering, the profits of many businesses will suffer along with it??? Particularly of those businesses producing a product (meat) which people can and do eliminate from their purchases if they are not making an adequate living???

Nowhere did I support foreign beef! Though I hae enjoyed some New Zealand lamb! And I'm very certain that Canadian standards at least match ours these days.

This business of, in effect, cutting of our noses to spite our faces, as in stopping Canadian beef imports DID have a nasty "unintended consequence". That consequence was elimination of US processing plants on the northern tier of US states due to the fact they slaughtered meat from BOTH nations and could not survive financially on only US product. Now, just how has that helped producers in our northern states who have to haul their cattle vastly further distances???

The hypocrisy of demanding ONLY country of origin, and not producer of origin makes that law a farce!

I believe there were, and still are, businesses which have identified the sources of their products, including meats, since long before the COOL debacle was passed into law. Why not choose to support those businesses, and allow the marketplace to determine the information, instead the heavy hand of government?

mrj
 
A

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Bullard said he's also afraid the USDA's enforcement of the program will undermine consumer confidence in country-of-origin labeling.

"It really reduces the value of the COOL label itself," he said.

R-CALF opposes the industry practice of labeling beef as a product of multiple countries -- such as U.S., Canada and Mexico -- on a single label, since this confuses consumers, he said
.

Consumer confidence in country of Origin Labeling was undermined by R-CALF's unwillingness to source verify cattle to prove the very origination that they themselves demanded. Country of Origin Labeling is a joke because R-CALF made it a joke. R-CALF insisted that any beef be "born, raised, and processed" in the US before it would receive the USA BEEF label. The only way you can prove where an animal was "born" is with a traceback program WHICH R-CALF OPPOSED.

Quit blaming the rest of the beef industry for the problem you created. If you don't like the "CAN-MEX-USA" beef labels, then source verify your cattle. If you don't want to source verify your cattle, then shut up about the "CAN-MEX-USA" labels. This is the fault of proponents of "M"COOL and nobody else.

No, the oversimplistic "C" and "M" brands on the hide won't prove the origination of the beef that's under that hide.


Tex: "Just because the major meat packers want to hide where they get their beef doesn't mean consumers don't or that a marketing program can be so designed to increase value to domestic producers."

If packers didn't want consumers to know the origination of their beef, they wouldn't be participating in source verified and product verified branded beef programs and they wouldn't be labeling New Zealand lamb.

You are so clueless Tex I can't belive anyone would take you seriously.


~SH~
 

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