An Affidavit is Okay
“The National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) worked with 30 groups industrywide to develop a standardized form, an affidavit, that can be used by producers and at all industry levels to declare country of origin, Heather Vaughan, spokesperson for the NCBA,  explained.
If your cattle are in the near five percent of cattle in the U.S. enrolled in QSA (Quality Systems Assessment) or PVP (Process Verification Program), they will be granted “safe harbor” under mandatory COOL. For the other 95 percent of cattle, there will have to be a producer affidavit on cattle they’re selling, saying those cattle are U.S. born and raised.
Vaughan said producers may have to prove, at some point, that these cattle are in fact U.S. born and raised, but normal record keeping documents, such as producer records, calving records, animal health records, should be kept on file for one year, she noted.
The burden of proof legally falls on the packer, and the commodity is the product covered in the law. "The producer has the information that becomes the commodity," Vaughan explained.

So how will this likely affect producers?
“Time will tell,” Tamara Hinton, spokesperson for Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture, added. “The "covered commodities" of this law are meat and meat products – not livestock. (Again), the point of enforcement is retailers, not directly processors or producers. The statutory requirements placed on retailers will affect processors and producers through changes in the trade of livestock as retailers seek to purchase meat and meat products in ways that allow them to comply with the law. USDA has signaled that they intend to implement the law initially in a way that takes into account that livestock trade will take time to adjust to these new practices.
Many industry leaders believe overzealous lawmakers didn’t know what they were asking for or didn’t understand how beef cattle move in this country.
But the affidavit was the least intrusive, least burdensome option for the producers, Vaughan, NCBA spokesperson, said. “The USDA 2left it up to the (agriculture) industry to develop a way for the documentation of livestock to be handled.” She noted, however, that ultimately, the affidavit will be up to the individuals and their individual sale barns. Vaughan said record keeping will be important, in case producers need to prove their livestock’s origin. “Some packers will be required by law to maintain records for one year,” Vaughan said, adding that producers should plan to keep their records for that long as well.

The Basics of COOL
“The 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef (including veal), lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts. The implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish was delayed until Sept. 30, 2008. A retailer is any person engaged in the business of selling any perishable agricultural commodity at retail," Billy Cox, USDA Ag marketing service spokesperson, told us.
Hinton added, “COOL requires that retailers provide a country of origin label for every product listed under the law effective September 30. Labeling the listed products at the retail level is mandatory, under the law. What is not mandatory, and is expressly prohibited, is the US Department of Agriculture using a mandatory animal identification to enforce this new labeling law.  However, this does not prevent the buyers and sellers of livestock from using source verification systems – including the National Animal Identification System – as a part of their normal conditions of commerce."
The Benefits of COOL
“People are advocating this because they want to know where their meat is coming from thinking it will be safe or unsafe based on its origin. Country of origin labeling is not a matter of food safety. t is a marketing issue. But the people who produce that product should design and implement the labeling program, not the government,” Hinton noted.
Vaughan added, “In the same way people may choose clothes that say “Made in the USA,” people may choose to buy beef that says “Made in the USA.” It can be marketing tool. What it isn’t is a food safety tool.”
“When USDA analyzed this law, they identified significant costs, which will ultimately be born by producers and consumers, and no quantifiable benefits. Proponents of this mandatory law believe a premium will be derived for US-labeled products, but this remains to be seen. Common sense would suggest that if retailers could derive a higher price for their products simply by labeling them as from the US, they would already be labeled,” Hinton said.
But, since the expenses and costs of COOL are yet to be seen, and with today’s economic crunch, many producers are asking, when was the last time you walked into Wal-Mart and saw people making decisions based on label? People are more concerned with cost.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here