Corporate Farming Notes: COOL and Kansas Anti-Corporate Farming Law

Things are looking up for Country of Origin Labeling. COOL requires retailers to provide consumers information about the country where fruits, vegetables, fish, shellfish, and meats originate. Last June, the World Trade Organization found that US rules for meat discriminate against Canadian and Mexican imports. They issued a May 23 deadline to comply with the ruling.

Fortunately, on March 8, USDA issued a strong proposed rule. It would prohibit co-mingling of muscle cuts, eliminate the vague “mixed origin” label, and require that all cuts of meat display information on the label about where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.

The Center for Rural Affairs applauds USDA’s new COOL rule. The “born, raised, and slaughtered” standard is especially encouraging. We’ve worked for nearly two decades in support of this labeling. First to get the law passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Next to see it implemented. And now it stands to become the foundation of country of origin meat labeling.

Of course the meat industry is scurrying for cover. Retaining the strength of the rule will require support from family farmers, ranchers, rural organizations, and other concerned citizens.

Comments to USDA on the rule must be received by April 11, 2013. You’ll find more information on submitting comments here. Or you can contact me directly – johnc@cfra.org or 402.687.2100.

On March 8, the Kansas Senate heard testimony on legislation that would allow out-of-state ownership of Kansas farms and ranches. It also removes county commissions’ authority to block development of corporate hog and dairy operations.

This is part of a legislative package intended to repeal Kansas’ anti-corporate farming law and clear the path for corporate hog and dairy operations. Other bills would make it even more difficult to bring nuisance suits against industrial livestock operations. They would weaken rules on where such operations can be built.

“Let’s not kid ourselves…,” said Mary Fund of the Kansas Rural Center in her testimony. “[This bill] is not about helping family farmers; it is not about jobs or rebuilding communities. If corporate agriculture and consolidation brought jobs and healthy communities, western Kansas would be a paradise today. This is more of the same, and the result has always been fewer farmers, declining rural communities, and shrinking economic opportunities.”

Hear, hear Mary… hear, hear.