No, I am not talking about the 'cool' front that blew into the Coastal Bend recently, but rather 'Country of Origin Labeling,' which is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 30.
The 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef (including veal), lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts. The implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish was delayed until Sept. 30.
So you might ask as I have thought, why can't USDA allow a "presumption of U.S. origin" whereby only imported-covered commodities are required to be identified and tracked according to their respective countries of origin? Well, the official answer is "to treat domestic products in a less burdensome manner than imported products could create a national treatment issue and potentially violate U.S. trade obligations."
Among other commodities, beef sold at retail will have to be labeled with what country it came from. Under COOL, a producer affidavit will be considered acceptable evidence so long as the person involved has first-hand knowledge of origin. Questions have been asked as to exactly what must be included in such an affidavit.
According to a recent news update from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, USDA will not create any sort of standard affidavit, so the National Cattlemens Beef Association plans to work with various segments of the industry to develop something that could be used by producers.
Livestock producers are not directly regulated by the COOL law because livestock are not considered covered commodities. However, only producers have first-hand knowledge concerning the origin of their animals.
Definitive origin information must be provided to slaughter facilities so that meat products as covered commodities can be accurately labeled at retail. Livestock producers should be prepared to provide necessary country of origin documentation to their buyers.
So if you raise, purchase, or sell livestock, there are two options:
Option 1: Complete the Producer Affidavit entitled "Continuous Affidavit of Country of Origin of Livestock." This affidavit may be provided to those parties that you frequently sell to and is only required one time. This form can be found at http://www.texascattleraisers.org/cool/
Option 2: Include a statement on any of your business forms (printed, stamped or handwritten on a Bill of Sale or Invoice) that attest that all livestock referenced by this document and transferred are of (list location) origin.
Producers should consider maintaining possibly relevant records to support affidavits. The USDA site for COOL is http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool/. Click on "Examples of Records for COOL Verification" on the right under "Resources" and then on "Cattle, Beef, Muscle Cuts of Beef, Ground Beef" under "Additional Information" on the right. Also, participation in the Texas Beef Quality Producers Program will provide "records that may be useful to verify compliance with the Country of Origin Labeling provisions." More information on the BQA program can be found at http://texasbeefquality.com
Brush Control and Pond Construction and Management will be topics of discussion Tuesday at the Papalote Ranch Field Day, beginning with 3:30 p.m. registration. The program will begin at 4 p.m. and conclude with a barbecue meal at 7 p.m. Pesticide Applicators will be awarded three CEUs.
The registration fee is $5 per person and participants are asked to RSVP by Tuesday to 362-3280.
Livestock and wildlife producers, land managers and others interested in learning more about managing and optimizing their grazing lands will have an opportunity at a workshop being held Oct. 1, at the Bee County Expo Center.
The "My Piece of Texas" grazing school will teach attendees how to estimate forage production, determine grazeable acres and set proper stocking rates as well as learn valuable grazing management principles.
The $25 registration fee will include lunch and a copy of the soon-to-be published handbook, "Managing My Piece of Texas." Registration by Sept. 26 is required and can be made by calling 362-3280.