The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) needs to minimize cost and provide clearer direction for meeting proposed country-of-origin labeling (COOL) guidelines.

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Jon Caspers made those comments to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service in mid-April.

On Sept. 30, 2004, COOL becomes mandatory. Pork producers will be responsible for collecting, maintaining, tracking, auditing and verifying information on the origin of their hogs for labeling retail pork products.

“It is increasingly becoming clear that the COOL guidelines, as currently drafted, are wholly inadequate and are going to be very costly for pork producers,” says Caspers, a pork producer from Swaledale, IA. “It is our belief that the costs, including the liability issues of participating in this program, far outweigh any benefits that might accrue to participants.”

USDA should ensure that retailers don't impose a costly animal identification and traceback system on producers and the pork chain in order to meet COOL rules, he says.

NPPC, which has long opposed COOL, “urges USDA to modify the guidelines on this deeply flawed legislation,” says Caspers.

NPPC's testimony can be found at: www.nppc.org.