A USDA spokesperson told DTN Friday that the department is reviewing the appropriations' language on country-of-origin labeling in the 2014 omnibus spending bill this week, but no decisions have been made on whether USDA should change course.
“USDA is in the process of reviewing the explanatory statement that was attached to the appropriations bill. The final rule that modified the labeling provisions for muscle cut meat commodities covered under Country of Origin Labeling went into effect on May 23, 2013. During the six month period following the effective date of the regulation, USDA has conducted an industry education and outreach program concerning the provisions and requirements of this rule. USDA continues to assist retailers and suppliers with complying with the rule," the spokesperson said in an email to DTN.
The explanatory language came from a joint agreement by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The text states that the agreement reached in Congress does not approve of USDA's continued implementation, enforcement and spending on mandatory country-of-origin labeling regulations. Appropriators noted the potentially high cost of implementing USDA's new rule, which has a range of $53.1 million to $192.1 million at the high end. Lawmakers noted Canada and Mexico still are not satisfied. Canada has responded by suggesting possible retaliatory tariffs of $1.1 billion. "Mexico is expected to issue a similar list of U.S. exports totaling several hundred million dollars."
"It is strongly recommended that USDA not force increased costs on industry and consumer and that the department delay enforcement of the final rule ... until the WTO has completed all decisions related to cases," lawmakers wrote.
Thus far, it's unclear whether the farm bill conferees will take a vote on how to treat country-of-origin labels
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