WASHINGTON (DTN)--Despite the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee vote June 17, that axed funding for implementing mandatory country-of-origin labeling-, COOL remains part of the current farm bill.

Livestock industry leaders say producers should prepare a plan now to comply with the law, scheduled to go into effect September, 2004.

That was the message presented at a recent satellite program originated from Iowa State University, according to an ISU college of agriculture press release.

The COOL program was part of the 2002 farm bill. It requires retailers to list the country of origin for beef, pork, lamb, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and peanuts. Products will need to be labeled, stamped or marked, or general signs posted.

William Sessions with the USDA was one of the presenters on the program, which was sponsored by three ISU groups--Iowa Pork Industry Center, Iowa Beef Center and ISU Extension. "The covered commodities of beef, pork and lamb are produced from cattle, hogs and sheep, which are not covered commodities," Sessions said. "That means the first handlers of these animals will need to be able to supply information to those later in the chain."

John Lawrence, Iowa Beef Center director, said "These producers are between a rock and a hard place. The final rules haven't been written, but cattle that will be covered by the rules already have been born and pigs will be soon," he said.

Lawrence outlined a proposal for implementing COOL that is being developed by a coalition made up of Iowa State, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Cattlemen's Association and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. "We believe following these recommendations will help prepare producers for when the COOL rules are finalized," he said.

Lawrence said the proposal suggests producers develop a "paper trail" that can be used to document an animal's place of birth and where it was raised. Calving books, vaccination or other health treatment records, ear tags, scale tickets, closeout records and sales receipts are some of the things that could provide the necessary documentation.

"These supporting documents wouldn't be forwarded to anyone, but rather kept by the producer for at least two years to help prove an animal's origin," Lawrence said.

Sessions agreed producers should be gathering the kinds of information that is likely to be required, rather than waiting until final rules are announced. "I believe most producers already are keeping the basic business records that will allow compliance under the COOL program," Sessions said.

Proposed rules for implementing COOL are expected this fall. There will be a 90-day comment period before the final rules are announced next spring and implemented Sept. 30, 2004.

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