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The Associated Press reports that President Bush’s proposed 2009 budget “calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to collect fees of $259 from each of about 37,000 retailers to pay for compliance reviews for mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat and other food products.”

Which prompted John J. Motley, III, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), to issue the following statement:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal to charge food retailers ‘user fees’ to enforce the country of origin labeling law (COOL) is outrageous. It violates the government’s own definition of ‘user fees,’ which are supposed to provide the user a clear benefit. USDA is pursuing a backdoor method to pay for a government regulation, costing the industry $9.6 million in 2009.

“The only good news is that this idea is opposed by just about everyone affected by COOL, including produce growers, meat producers and even the law’s strongest proponents: the National Farmers Union and R-CALF.

“This abusive amendment does not merit consideration by Congress. FMI is working vigorously with Congress to ensure it is not attached to the Farm Bill, the government’s fiscal year 2009 budget or any other legislation.”

KC's View:
While COOL makes sense, in my humble opinion, it seems to me that somehow the government ought to figure out how to make less ominous for retailers. Charging retailers, who will either have to pass the costs onto consumers or just eat them, doesn’t make sense. Manufacturers and producers, which are, after all, the source of all products, are closest to the source and therefore should have the primary responsibility for these new labeling rules.