WASHINGTON -- A group of about a dozen GOP and Democratic senators from Midwest meat-producing states vowed last week to derail a House-passed bill delaying the controversial USDA rule requiring meat to be labeled with its country of origin by fall of 2004.
Retailers, wholesalers and meat packers are among the businesses that have complained about the costs associated with the compliance of country-of-origin labeling, approved last year for meat, produce and seafood.
With the meat-packing industry among his constituents, Rep. Henry Bonilla (R.-Texas), chairman of the House Agricultural Appropriations Committee, successfully championed the exclusion of red meat from labeling. The House voted 347 to 64 last week to strip funding from the USDA's budget to enforce country-of-origin labeling for meat. Left intact is funding to enforce labeling requirements for poultry, seafood and produce, now voluntary but to be permanent next year.
The no-meat-labeling House edict appeared to be doomed in the GOP-controlled Senate, given opposition from at least a half-dozen Republican senators. After the USDA funding bill clears the Senate, both chambers will have to reconcile differences, and that's where the fight over meat labeling will take place.