The Meat Promotion Act of 2005 was introduced in the U.S. Senate today. According to American Farm Bureau Federation officials, the bill’s voluntary meat labeling program would add value throughout the food chain, including at the producer level, and the bill deserves Senate support.

“Senate introduction of this voluntary, market-based program would appeal to consumers, successfully increase market visibility for U.S. food products and let farmers produce food instead of paperwork,” says Bob Stallman, AFBF president.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), introduced the bill, which has a companion bill (H.R. 2068) in the U.S. House. Both pieces of legislation would replace the mandatory country-of-origin labeling program for meat, scheduled to take effect on Sept. 30, 2006. The voluntary meat labeling bills would give producers added market value rather than a costly federal mandate, according to Stallman.

USDA estimates the costs of the current mandatory COOL program could be as much as $4 billion in the first year, with several hundred million dollars annually in costs. Stallman notes that USDA has estimated that more than 60 percent of those costs would be borne directly by the U.S. meat and livestock industry.

“Mandatory COOL for meat would place significant new costs on beef, pork and sheep producers, with the largest impact falling on independent producers,” Stallman says. “We believe consumers are willing to pay a premium for origin-verified meat products and it is up to the marketplace to meet that demand.”

He believes the voluntary program can be modeled after similar USDA-certified programs that are already in place and effective.

American Farm Bureau Federation