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Farmers Union President Praises USDA's COOL Decision

South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke praised the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) after the agency issued a final rule on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) which falls in compliance with the requirements set forth by a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling.

COOL requires retailers to label muscle cuts, ground meats and certain other commodities with the country where it was born, raised and slaughtered.

"Consumers want to know where their food comes from, and they have a right to know," Sombke said. "I'm pleased that the USDA has issued its final rule that will keep the integrity of the COOL law intact and implement the tru intent of the legislation."

The final rule eliminates the use of commingling of muscle cuts from different origins. It also requires that the labeling specify the origin of the meat from the animal's birth, raising and slaughter or harvest. Sombke said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., deserves a lot of credit for his tirless work to see COOL through and for continuing his support.

"We have been able to get to this decision because of all that Sen. Johnson has done since the conversation about country-of-origin labeling began," Sombke said. "It's because of his work and his influence that we've gotten to this point. This is a positive step forward that will not only help consumers have a better understanding of the origins of the food they eat, it will give American producers a chance to take some credit for raising the best food supply in the world."

South Dakota Farmers Union was among the thousands of groups and individuals which submitted public comments to the USDA supporting the labeling requirement that muscle cut commodities specify the country in which the production steps took place for the animal from which the meat was derived and for the elimination of the commingling process where meats from different origins could be combined.

"Providing more accurate labels with more information is a win-win situation for producers and consumers alike," Sombke said. "U.S. farmers and ranchers are proud of what they produce and should be allowed to promote their products. Consumers deserve clear, direct and informative labels."