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Implementing Country Of Origin Labeling a Top Legislative Priority for '07

March 1, 2007

The National Farmers Union has joined in a bi-partisan effort with Congress and 200 other farm and consumer groups to move up the implementation date for Country of Origin Labeling. In a letter to the Congressional leadership, chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Ag Committees, the groups are asking for the implementation date to be changed from September of 2008 to September 2007. South Dakota Farmers Union president Doug Sombke says the labeling law has faced a series of roadblocks in the current administration, but he's hopeful the new Congress will clear the way.

"Many people are still concerned about where their beef comes from, and where their products are coming from. I just can't believe that this isn't even considered a national security issue when you really think about it."

Sombke believes South Dakota consumers have the right to know where their food comes from. Both consumers and producers are expressing strong support for the labeling law, but processing companies have been fighting it.

"We need to get down to the bare facts that this thing is happening and companies are doing this because they're trying to make a cheaper product. Fine and dandy to make a cheaper product, but the fact of the matter is, you better be able to establish where and what it is made of. This is not just a one-sided thing. It's not a producer thing. This is a consumer thing. If you look at the groups that signed on, you can definitely see that. And I think that again it would address the importance of what the farm bill should offer, not just for producers, but as consumers as well."

Lawmakers supporting earlier implementation include Democratic Representative Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota, Democratic Senator Max Baucus and Republican Representative Denny Rehberg of Montana, Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi both Republicans of Wyoming, and Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

David Law/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - SD