January 21, 2004

Wyden: Country-Of-Origin Labeling Empowers Consumers, Must go Forward

Senator calls for removal of spending bill provision delayingpro-consumer policy that would also help Oregon food producers

Washington, DC - As reports about bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow" disease have raised questions about America's food supply, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today called on Congress to fix faulty legislation that would delay "country of origin" labeling on food sold in the United States. The 2002 Farm Bill requires country of origin labeling to begin this fall, but retailers and other powerful interests successfully included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2004 omnibus spending bill that would delay the pro-consumer policy for two years. Wyden supported yesterday's successful Senate vote delaying consideration of the $820 billion appropriations measure until this and other special interest provisions are removed from the legislation. Country-of-origin labeling would help Oregon consumers make informed decisions about the food they buy, and make Oregon farmers and ranchers more competitive on the world market. "Country-of-origin labeling will empower Oregon consumers with the information they need to make informed choices about the food and fiber they feed their families," said Wyden. "Congress should stand with consumers, farmers and ranchers by eliminating this special interest provision and allowing country-of-origin labeling." Opponents of country-of-origin labeling say the practice will force them to track Wyden (middle), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Dan Joyce, President of National Farmers Union of Oregon call for county of origin labeling to increase standards. beef products more carefully and to stop mixing Mexican and Canadian meat in ground beef to maximize profits. At a press conference today, Wyden said that the safety of American consumers, as well as the public's right to information about the food supply and the concerns of farmers and ranchers, should trump industry interests. Oregon beef producers meet and exceed U.S. Department of Agriculture safety standards. But Oregon's ranchers and farming families must compete with producers from countries with lower living and labor costs, as well as lower production, labor and environmental standards. These lower standards in other countries often mean imported products cost less for the U.S. consumer than Oregon products - even in Oregon. Labeling products as homegrown can help farmers and ranchers meet the growing demand for safe, U.S.-produced food, making more jobs and economic growth a byproduct of the food labeling effort.